Busia Journalists and activists today May 3rd, 2022, marked the World Press Freedom Day with a passionate plea to the government to enhance their security during this electioneering period.
This comes in the era where Journalists and media operations in the eastern African region continue to face threats from state and non-state actors, as those with power seek to gag the free press and tend to interfere with freedom of the sector.
The date chosen for this annual celebration was May 3, which is a day of action in the form of initiatives designed to uphold press freedom, as well as a day for assessing the state of press freedom in the world, a day for warning the public and raising awareness, a day for encouraging debate among media professionals, and a commemoration of all the journalists who have lost their lives while doing their job.
Addressing the press outside Green Garden in Busia Town, they called for better remuneration to enable them to execute their duties with professionalism and without any hindrance or political interferences.
Emuria FM veteran, Mr Patrick Okumu, said their colleagues in hotspot areas such as Wajir, Isiolo, Baringo and West Pokot should be given adequate security, even if it means arming them as was the practice in other countries in the world.
“In these critical times, when our democracies face many challenges such as widespread disinformation, there is an urgent need for governments to create an environment that enables quality media, to perform their role as the ‘fourth power’, an essential pillar of democracy, which ensures that citizens have access to diverse and independent news sources and can actively participate in society, making informed choices,” he said.
Busia County Chief Public Communication Officer, Reuben Olita, urged members of the Fourth Estate not to take sides while covering candidates for various political positions during this electioneering period, but to practice impartiality while executing their duties.
“Press Freedom Day is an opportunity to recall that democracy is not possible if freedom of expression and media freedom are subject to restrictions that do not comply with human rights standards. Media Council of Kenya and Kenya Correspondents Association should prevail upon various media houses to give correspondents better remunerations, to enable them execute their duties without being influenced,” said Olita.
An activist with New Kengele Forum, Mr Francis Mukamani, said there is a need for media houses to give journalists better remuneration and insurance, giving an example of world Billionaire media executive and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey whose status is unrivalled.
“Kenyan government should prove their commitment to respecting and promoting freedom of expression by strengthening their legal frameworks so these rights can be fully exercised, including specific measures to ensure that journalists can do their jobs safely – and fully implement the Court’s judgments concerning freedom of expression in a timely manner,” said Mukamani.
World Press Freedom Day acts as a reminder to governments of the need to respect their commitment to press freedom and is also a day of reflection among media professionals about issues of press freedom and professional ethics.
From murders, arbitrary arrests, job losses and the shrinking democratic space in which journalists operate, there was clearly nothing to celebrate for journalists as the world marks Press Freedom Day.
Across the world, journalists are increasingly targeted. This has made their work so difficult and a struggle on a daily basis to defend their democratic space so as to guard “information as a public good”.
“The Media play an important role in our society in education and informing the public, Information, and knowledge in our age and era are powerful tools, and a free and independent press is the core in connecting the public to the information that is much needed to advocate for issues that affect them, make necessary informed decisions, and holding public officials and institutions accountable in their actions. We laud the media for the great work they are doing despite the many challenges they face among them the ongoing COVID19 pandemic. Freedom of expression and access to factual and accurate information provided by the media is foundational to prosperous and secure democratic societies,” noted Olita.
This year’s theme was “Journalism Under Digital Siege.”