The Kenya media has condemned the National Security Advisory Committee (NSAC) directive on coverage of political gatherings.
The industry players led by Media Council of Kenya (MCK), Kenya Editors Guild (KEG) Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ) and the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK) among other organizations have termed the Public Order Act issued on October 7, 2020, and ratified by the cabinet as retrogressive.
The Public Order Act which will be enforced by a multi-agency team affects all public meetings and processions, media broadcasting, publishing and reporting; and the responsible conduct of persons using social media.
In a joint statement on Monday, the 12 media organisations while acknowledging irresponsible media reporting could fuel political tensions noted that the directive curtailed media freedom by interfering with editorial independence.
“We find this retrogressive and unnecessary interference in the work of the media and access to information by Kenyans,” they noted adding that the media industry is well aware of the threat posed by reckless political activities and utterances and have enough internal mechanisms to deal with it.
“That is why we have been at the forefront in encouraging responsible and professional journalism, which has included regular peer review engagements, media information literacy, training programmes on conflict-sensitive reporting, hate speech, election reporting and coverage of communal, ethnic and political strife,” the statement read in part.
According to the public order that has sparked an uproar, a raft of measures have been spelt out for public meetings while the media will be held responsible for all the content published that has hate speech.
The media stakeholders further go ahead to note that the said efforts are well documented, and play an integral part in the evolution of the media co-regulatory framework established by law under the Media Council of Kenya Act.
The leadership of the media industry in light of this is now urging that the NSAC statement and the Multi-Agency Team on Public Order terms of reference be reviewed to remove any that pose threats to media freedom as outlined in Section 6 of the Media Council Act, and the general freedom of speech, expression and communications enjoyed by all.
The media players are concerned that security agencies may assume powers that amount to curbs on media freedom.
“We would also caution against any curbs that threaten editorial independence and prerogatives, or any attempts to silence discordant voices that may seem to find expression through the media… Such orders if implemented will greatly erode the gains made in strengthening a free and responsible media industry in the country” they said.
In conclusion, the media stakeholders state that any breaches of the ethical guidelines in reporting under the current political environment are best addressed under the established mechanisms, including the Media Complaints Commission rather than by giving security agencies unchecked powers to control the media.