on the Kenyan Media

Lately, the Kenyan press has been, with good reason, crying foul over the government’s decision to muzzle it. On this I was in complete agreement with them. I think that for society to remain healthy everyone should be allowed to express their beliefs, however unsettling they may be to sections of the same society. A free society must have a free press.

That said, I think the Kenyan media could do much better – if they tried. Being away from home, I mostly read the Nation and the Standard. I used to listen to radio online but stopped after I realized that the content is almost the same as any radio station over here. It is all American music, American gossip, American crap (Mobutu’s “Authenticity” was mostly horse manure, but his intentions had merit. We can never run away from the fact that every ‘culture’ has its owners). Even the accents of the presenters are no longer Kenyan (Nairobian, to be precise). The print media and television are just as bad. Foreign content predominates. I know we have made progress; and kudos to KTN and NTV for the local shows they have been airing. But these shows are not engaging enough. They do not seem to be geared towards educating the average Kenyan on their civil liberties and responsibilities. They do not come close to “Tushauriane”. And the newspapers. They are mostly sensationalist. The editorials lack the force that is needed in the editorials of major newspapers. Oh, and the Standard needs to shed its “gutter-press” image fast, just as the Nation needs to stop seeming like they lack a unity of purpose among their editorial staff.

So let’s be honest with ourselves and demand better from our media. We demand that they act as educators of Kenyans. They could dedicate an hour each week to talk about gender issues. Have middle class women (middle class for the simple reason that they probably practise what they would be preaching) talk about family planning, AIDS, marriage issues, Kenyan women’s needs and the like. Dedicate another hour to Kenyan men and on the same issues. It is only through the media that we can create a national consciousness and the attitudes that will help us advance as a nation. It is very sad that more than forty years after independence we still don’t have a national culture to speak of. The Kenyan media takes the biggest chunk of the blame for this.They have never engineered any meaningful national debates over any issue. Ethnicity, land, wealth distribution, family planning, AIDS, culture and the arts, language, and many others are areas in which they could focus (MEANINGFULLY) in order to help improve the condition of average Kenyans.

And while they are at it they should not allow themselves to be used by politicians. And speaking of politics, I think a 24 hour news channel would do us a lot of good. If Kenyans are reminded every half hour of what scam their leaders are involved in it might just push them over the edge and make them demand for better leadership. But who is going to fund it? Perhaps one of our few truly rich citizens. I say truly rich because most of the members of the Kenyan upper class belong to the “wabenzi” tradition. They get moderately rich, buy a benz and a house and then settle. Any further investment is usually in useless things like land in their “home areas” and other similarly dead-end investments. I could go on and on but this is a topic for a development economics piece that I hope to write some time soon…….

span.jajahWrapper { font-size:1em; color:#B11196; text-decoration:underline; } a.jajahLink { color:#000000; text-decoration:none; } span.jajahInLink:hover { background-color:#B11196; }

span.jajahWrapper { font-size:1em; color:#B11196; text-decoration:underline; } a.jajahLink { color:#000000; text-decoration:none; } span.jajahInLink:hover { background-color:#B11196; }