By Shem Ochuodho
Media freedom is one of the most fundamental rights any civil state must uphold. However, rights have also to come with responsibility. Before making substantive comment on this matter, my contribution would better be informed by reading the statute itself, not by media reports. As a major stakeholder in this, the media will report in a slanted matter.
I have to confess as an ICT Professional I don’t have much respect for the PS, and I rarely agree with his points of view. However, this is one of the rare instances when I seem to agree with him. Why do I say this: going purely on the basis of the media report, it cannot be denied that some vernacular FM stations (Kas Kas? Ramogi? Inoro??) fanned PEV in 2007/08. Rwanda’s genocide was aggravated through hate-speech on radio. I don’t see anything wrong regulating especially hate-speech, of course without taking away people’s right to know, especially the right to info of Govt functioning which would better be addressed through a Freedom of Info (FoF) or Right to Info (RTI) Bill/Act.
Secondly, content should reflect/promote our core national values, once they are identified and agreed upon. While not a football enthusiast (used to play for Bunge FC though), I am perturbed that people talk only about Arsenal and ManU, hardly about Harambee, Gor, AFC or Mathare. That unsettles me. Besides, the soap opera; why can’t our stations promote some local content? In this regard to, I would support a requirement that a certain minimum of the programs (5%? 10%?) be of local content. I, however, would not support censorship – or insistence that before airing content, a Board must first view/listen, etc!
Finally, on issue of cross-ownership, I also support Govt’s position. Cross-ownership leads to dominance by the rich-few. Even in the US, they don’t allow it. You cannot (as a company) be a major print media as well as electronic. They even go further and restrict ownership to citizens – not like Kenya where Kenyans own hardly 30% of total national wealth, including media!
Having said this, however, one thing I always have a bone with the PS is his arrogance; media are as much stakeholders and need due respect. Self-regulation (rather than Govt regulation) is the way to go for media. Let each entity play its part, but with due respect maintained.
Has anyone seen the Act? Warm rgrds,
Shem J. Ochuodho, former member of Kenyan Parliament, MSc (Eng), PhD, LLD (Hon) is a Senior Advisor to the Ministry of Telecom & Postal Services in the Government of Southern Sudan (GoSS), Juba. he is also a Kenya Community Abroad (KCA) 2007 Excellence Award Winner, AfricaOnline 2005 Industry Pioneer Award Recipient and Father of Internet in Kenya (CSK 2000)