Thursday, May 24, 2007

Media Freedom is a sham

That the Kenyan media is crying foul without a debate over the media bill is the greatest sham in this entire drama. For years, it has been an open secret that if your were on the receiving end of negative public opinion, all you had to do was pay your friendly neighbourhood reporter kitu kidogo before you saw your stock rise in the press. They cannot have it both ways: if they are going to regulate themselves, then the allegations of corruption leveled against them must be addressed properly and fully. Otherwise, it would be better for the State to take over that function from their less than clean hands. Accusing the state of the same level of corruption that is prevalent in their industry is counter-productive and hypocritical to say the least.

What I resent is the holier-than-thou attitude that the Minister for Information has adopted. When Mr. Kagwe failed to act after the Gestapo-style invasion of the premises of the Standard Group, it was clear which side of his slice of bread was buttered. His reluctance to take a stance on the matter has now only been surpassed by the publishing and introduction of the Media Bill in Parliament. The intention is clear - he and his cronies in the Government of National Unity wish to manage the press before, during and after the national elections; this management is not meant to be a benign hands-off affair but a full-time, hands-on matter of 'national security'.

But, is the press as influential as their shrieks of panic suggest? Perhaps the main-stream media are as professional as they were once in the mid-eighties. I am not persuaded that the rest of the players rise to the level that can be described as an honest press. Their over-dependence on sensationalism and sex to sell media space is deplorable. Their standards, especially in language and editorial content is truly abysmal. But what really gets my goat is the fact the they do not subscribe to any form of control, whether self- of government-control. They make up stories as they go along; they lie and misrepresent facts; and, worst of all, they mislead their consumers. It is just a matter of time before all the institutions that are meant to protect the citizenry are tarred with the same brush, the brush of corruption.

What is needed at this crucial time is an honest debate about democracy and how to democratise all our public institutions. With the political parties, perhaps, there is need for the old-school, KANU-style membership drives of the past. If you own the party, then you can never complain that it does not listen to you. A democratisation of the electoral process would involve making provisions for ballots to be cast for none of the candidates on the ballot as an expression of ones disagreement with the party nominees. With the media, the establishment of offices of public ombudsmen would go a long way in addressing the complaints of their customers. Otherwise, I will not be persuaded that when all these essentially undemocratic bodies go too war, that I should be called upon to defend them.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Having Children

When you think that you are having children, it must come as a shock to realise that it is the children that are having you. You are no longer master, or mistress, of all that you survey. Everything is held hostage to the whims and wherewithals of that fragile being that is the fruit of your loins. You are unable to plan without considering its needs. And those that that do not consider its needs are held in very low regard by their peers, society and, in certain extreme cases, the state.
I watched a film last night about the abuse children suffer at the hands of parents, friends of parents and other beastly beings. Then I was shocked out of my seat when NTV televised this broadcast about child abuse in a specific school in central Kenya. I do not know where we are heading, but it is definitely not heaven. When parents, grandparents and other relatives resort to the kind of violence and abuse as was portrayed against innocent children, this world dies a little. How do you explain a father impregnating his daughter; when the child from that unnatural act is of age, he impregnates it too? Why would that family be forgiven by the Almighty? Why would He forgive our land? We are truly doomed!
Sexual abuse is not the only curse befalling our families today. Recently, the papers ran a series of pictures of children who had been brutally assaulted physically by those meant to protect them from harm. There were heart-rending images of children with burnt bodies, broken limbs and mutilated bodies. Many of their attackers were women, leading me to belive that the image we tend to portray of women as the natural care-givers for these innocent lives is quickly losing its sheen.
All this tells me that Kenyan society is dying. Institutions like the Nairobi Women's Hopsital are all laudable efforts, but we need to treat the root causes of this collapse in moral and social values. Simply throwing money towards alleviating the pain that is being caused, will no longer suffice. We need to approach God and beg His mercy, for if we don't, the bad old days of active village participation in child-sacrifices will be upon us.

They all fall, eventually

The member of the National Assembly for Mumias East is a spectacularly unpleasant character. But he is not unique. A former member of the Na...