Kenya Government and Media
World Press Freedom Rank: Kenya 103/180
Reporters without Borders ranks Kenya in their World Press Freedom Index, 103/180 warning that Kenya has seen a “Steady decline” in media freedom with laws such as The Security Laws Amendment Act of 2014 used to gag journalists. Furthermore, the report points out that Journalists often face libel and defamation lawsuits where they are punished by paying large fines or prison sentences. In addition, there is an increase in police and government officials’ intimidation of journalists due to negative coverage of political parties or through covering opposition-held events. The report highlights that major TV channels were shut down in 2018 for broadcasting live coverage of opposition leader Raila Odinga’s mock inauguration. Further ,Human Rights Watch reports that journalists face arrest if they don’t disclose their sources.
Government Influence on Media: The media in Kenya is regulated by the Media Council of Kenya who provides accreditation of journalists and facilitates communication between the government, the general public, and journalists. The Media Council of Kenya receives funding from the government and the government also funds media publications through the Media Council. For example, the government recently funded Catholic Media Houses through the Media Council. In addition, who and how the board is appointed is not disclosed clearly. Further, the government allocates advertising money to media outlets which results in some self-censorship among journalists. Freedom House reports that government advertising money is very important “for the survival of media outlets, including those that publish online.”
In Kenya, most of the media outlets are privately owned with the exception of some national broadcasting outlets. There are three privately-owned major TV stations, Kenya Television Network, Citizen Television, and Nation Television News (NTV). The stations are owned by Nation Media Group (NMG), Standard Group PLC, and Royal Media Services (RMS). They also own various radio stations, newspapers, and other media. On the other hand, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) is owned by the state and is funded from advertising and a government budget. When it comes to print media, the largest daily newspapers are the Daily Nation and its competitor “The Standard” which dominate the market.
In conclusion, although Kenya is known as a country that “provides a relatively safe haven” for journalists, state control and intimidation of the media by politicians persists. Further, media cross-ownership creates a media oligopoly, while government funding of media erodes plurality and creates the potential for media-driven propaganda.
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