Kenya’s press freedom has stagnated, says report

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Kenyan journalists covering a press conference in Nairobi. Kenya’s press freedom rating stagnated for the past two years, reveals report. FILE PHOTO | NATION MEDIA GROUP
Kenya’s press freedom rating stagnated for the past two years even as the global trend towards good journalism worsened, an indication that the country has done little to improve the media environment.

The latest Press Freedom Index showed that Kenya’s ranking remained unchanged at 95 out of 180 countries polled, scoring 45.95 points on a press freedom abuse scale where 0 is the best and 100 the worst.

The Index is published by Paris media watchdog Reporters Without Borders.

It says violation of media freedoms has become commonplace and strongmen are on the rise.

This is compounded by “the age of post-truth, propaganda, and suppression of freedoms, especially in democracies.”

NEW TECHNOLOGIES

With new technologies, the Index says governments have become obsessed with surveillance and violation of privacy rights of citizens and the rights to confidentiality of sources.

The outcome is that countries such as the US, Australia, UK, New Zealand and Chile, previously seen as free, have deteriorated.

“The rate at which democracies are approaching the tipping point is alarming. If media freedom is not secure, then none of the other freedoms can be guaranteed,” said Christophe Deloire, the secretary-general of Reporters Without Borders, in a statement.

In Africa, the report in critical of governments that shut the internet especially at election times and during protests. It happened in Uganda in February last year, Cameroon in its English speaking regions following protests, Ethiopia during its state of emergency to contain Oromo protests, and Burundi during the deadly political turmoil that followed President Pierre Nkurunziza’s third term bid.

INTERNET SHUTDOWNS

So why has Kenya remained in the same place despite having no deliberate internet shutdowns, one of the most liberal media outlets and the perceived independent editorial content?

Kenya doesn’t even have journalists in jail for reporting news.

“One of the issues we have stuck with is our poor legal environment for journalists,” Mr Victor Bwire, the deputy chief executive at the Media Council of Kenya, told the Nation.

“Our legal regime is still anti-press freedom. We can boast, on paper, that we have a media friendly environment but the laws governing the media are still problematic. We don’t even have a media policy which means that we don’t know the kind of media we need,” he added.

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