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The Telescope

Why the future of Kenyan journalism needs assessment

I profoundly refer to journalism as ‘a business of the heart and soul’.

Contrary to the popular notion that becoming a journalist is a midnight affair, the amount of sheer hard work and undivided commitment that goes into it lies beyond the beautiful faces, angelic voices or short and long articles you peruse through the newspapers.

No one has a clear cut image of the real world like a journalist does. Far from the narcissistic glamour that it presumably exudes, journalists hear and see some of the harshest stories in life, which they report to the world.

Images of politicians arguing, horrendous accidents that take lives, communities fighting and families weeping reign among incessant brushes with the almost noxious conception of the real world in a day.

Scribe Tom Chambers says, in an article penned not so long ago: “We spend all day separating fact from fiction, listening to PR cronies and dealing with slimy politicians. We have a strong, working knowledge of how the world works. We can delve into the intricacies of zoning laws, local and national politics, where to find the good restaurants, what’s happening with pop culture, where the good bands are playing and more.

Look, we’re paid to write. Every day. What’s more, our writing matters. It changes opinions, affects decisions and connects people with the world around them. We’re not spewing our angst or trying to fabricate an aura of creativity. We write about the real world — with real consequences. Our words go through three or four cranky editors who make us rewrite before it’s printed a few hundred thousand times”.00260869-13ff4e68a2d47d3214beb0e4ea004a0d-arc614x376-w614-us1

Nevertheless, in the wake of great achievements, there is still the silent fear of regular clampdowns in the freewheeling media and open cyberspace. Fittingly, it has led to a serious travesty of justice. Most recently, footage of GSU officers violence against journalists left some injured and hospitalised in Mombasa.

Constitutionally, laws that infringe on press freedom continue to sail through the legislature rendering self-censorship futile. In addition, the civil society and media continue unsuccessful lobbies against retrogressive legislation but have not achieved much.

Sure enough, the situation on the ground has improved but a dangerous decline in media freedom in recent years has been accompanied by an increase in threats and attacks.

Ultimately, if the Kenyan press is to survive such threats, a unified, politically impartial press unit needs to be in place sooner than later. If not so, journalists will continue to live in a state of limbo as Kenya ranks 100th out of 180 countries in the 2015 Reporters Without Borders press freedom index.

This article was published on the May 9 2015  in People Daily Kenya .