Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Enough with the hyperbole

If he wasn't the son of the late Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and if he wasn't the heir to a half-a-billion dollar fortune, I would sympathise with Uhuru Kenyatta because of all the sweeping, unprovable accusations made against him, like the one that he is made in the same mould as Donald Trump and therefore, he wants to "destroy the press". Uhuru Kenyatta, President and Commander-in-Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces, isn't interested in destroying the media or turning the media into his lackey: the media already is a lackey and anyone that says otherwise is blind. Or stupid. Or both.

There is a very big difference between the all-but-forgotten Dennis Galava and the true owners of the Daily Nation, the Saturday Nation and the Nation on Sunday. Mr Galava is no doubt a talented journalist, capable of distilling the essence of moment in our history, identifying the key issues that Kenyans must focus on and set it down on paper in a way that will make most readers pay attention. But Mr Galava is not the media nor is he a representative of the media nor the media house that once employed him. He is a journalist. He has his ethics. The Nation Media Group, no matter how much personhood the law grants it, is not a journalist and neither are the other companies that make up "the media" in Kenya. 

Mr Galava could be jailed for reporting the news; it would be unconstitutional, but it could be done on one pretext or the other. Or, to prevent his news stories from being read, he could be fired from his job. He could self-publish on the internet or try and find financing for his own newspaper, but, come on, who would bother to read any newspaper that isn't the Daily Nation, the Saturday Nation, the Nation on Sunday, the Standard, the Standard on Sunday, the East African, the Star, the People or the Business Daily? What is important to remember is that neither of these companies can be jailed; they can be disbanded, their registration withdrawn by the Registrar of Companies, but they can't be jailed because though they may be "the media", they are not journalists.

Journalists will always report the news and how they report the news depends entirely on whether or not their employers, the "media houses" believe that there is money to be made by reporting news that, for example, Uhuru Kenyatta would want to suppress. Journalists and "media" companies, unless they are employed or wholly owned by the government, don't have a right to government revenue in the name "ad buys". They can sell their advertising services to the rest of the private sector; but they cannot claim that their existence relies solely on the government's need to buy ad space to inform the people of available jobs in the Ministry of Mining or that the National Assembly has invited the public to comment on the Moveable Property Security Rights Bill, 2016. (Okay, that latter one is really important.)

But, surely, it is not the business of the taxpayer to subsidise the media companies who will in turn charge the same taxpayer an exorbitant fee for their newspapers, is it? I have no problem with my taxes being spent on more important things, like the facilities that doctors are demanding from the government before they can return to work. The same journalists who were all for the reduction of the public wage bill because even clerks are paid too high in the public service, should be all for the reduction in all unnecessary expenses by the government, such as extortionate ad buys. When journalists are jailed for being journalists, like it happens in Russia, Kyrgyzstan, Iran, Saudi Arabia or Zimbabwe, yes, the media (formerly known as the free press) is under threat. When government wastes less and less money on ad buys, not so much.

No comments: