Activist Boniface Mwangi has penned a heartfelt piece on the sad state of journalism in the Country.
Mwangi bemoans that while it is a despicable situation akin to a dog’s life for the un-celebrated journalists on the ground who go out of their way to gather news, the often lauded and acknowledged bunch are “socialites and bimbos who do nothing but entertain — and the best they can do is read scripts written by the real journalists”.
The former Standard photojournalist known for his Unbound book likened Journalism to a calling and advised souls keen on the career based on facade of getting rich and glamour to think again adding that News and investigative journalism in particular is a calling which involves long hours, crazy deadlines and that most do it for the love of it because the pay is average.
“The pen has always been mightier than the sword. That’s why a good investigative story will bring down corrupt officials without any need for weapons. Without journalism, the world as we know it would be a different place. Kenyan journalism has come from far — and played a critical role in democratizing the country. While subtle harassment continues, with occasional arbitrary arrests, the threat to journalism is more veiled than before” he opined.
He cited the recent attack on Citizen TV journalist and arrest of AFP photographer, Yasuyoshi Chiba, while taking pictures at the Brook side Dairy company,as some of the cases that espouses challenges journalists go through as they try to report stories.
Mwangi argues journalists are fast losing their independence as they grapple the competition from Social media and the internet and hits out at the government and PR agencies who are at the fore front in curtailing media freedom.
“They lie in wait to punish any media house that publishes or airs stories they deem negative by with-drawing adverts. The government has sometimes withheld payment owed to media houses as punishment for bold journalism”.
He says consequently, many journalists have turned away from their noble course of telling the truth, to join the bandwagon of spin-doctors who work for different government arms, every day trying to ‘fight’ stories by bribing colleagues, blackmail and use of threats.
“Our journalists have been vilified, but they have done a pretty good job — under very difficult circumstances. Some have lost their jobs for writing stories that upset media owners, advertisers and government”.
He lauds impeccable journalism as key advancement to democracy which plays a role in keeping the government and the citizens accountable. He also notes with concern how lightly Kenyans underrate investigative stories.
“They create jokes and memes about the theft of public resources. Journalists put their lives at risk to expose the rot and the least we can do is to ensure something comes out of it. It’s the civic duty of citizens to demand accountability and transparency”.
The renowned activist urged Kenyans need to defend journalists when they get falsely accused and maligned with a call for clear distinction.
“And don’t confuse paid bloggers and Twitter follow trains for journalists — those have an agenda, to make money, while journalism is a calling, to inform, empower and change society”
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