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Kenya joins world in marking World Press Freedom Day, but what’s there to celebrate?

Kenya has joined the world in marking World Press Freedom Day even as the country and many others worldwide grapple with shrinking democratic spaces.

The world marks World Press Freedom Day on May 3rd, each year, to celebrate the profession. Its origins were from a UNESCO Conference in 1991, which ended on the set date – May 3rd.

The theme for this year’s celebration is ‘Information as a Public Good.’ The theme affirms how important it is to cherish the information journalists give us as a public good.

To commemorate the day, the Media Council of Kenya has organized an Annual Media Summit.

Among the Keynote speakers in the event are National Assembly Speaker Justine Muturi, ICT Principal Secretary Ms. Ester Koimett, and Media Council of Kenya Chairman Mr. Maina Muiruri.

What’s to celebrate in Kenya?

Kenyan governments have often had a frosty relationship with the Kenyan media, especially with private print media in the 60s through to the 80s.

The emergence of private TV in the 90s also affected the Kenyan government’s relationship with journalists. Privately owned media houses in Kenya have often been rather outspoken, but that doesn’t mean journalists haven’t suffered due to their work.

Arrests and executions have been part of many Kenyan journalists’ lives.

Deaths and job losses

Joseph Masha, a Standard writer at the time of his death, died of suspected poisoning in 2016. His death came two days after meeting a legislator. Reports say that he had been poisoned.

Dennis Otieno, a Freelance journalist, also suffered a similar fate, though his death was more instant.  Otieno was a photojournalist based in Kitale.

On the night of his death, gunmen attacked him and his wife at their home at 11 PM and demanded he handed over photos he had taken earlier in the day (contents remain unclear). They shot him thrice.

Furthermore, others have faces threats to their livelihoods, the most recent being Nation Media firing Editor Dennis Galava after a hard-hitting editorial criticizing President Kenyatta. This was in 2016.

Thus, while the world celebrates World Press Freedom Day, journalists remain victims of authoritarian regimes.

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