Kenya: Media successful but fraught with legal and structural challenges

Kenya: Media successful but fraught with legal and structural challenges - Media

ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa today (31st October 2014) launched a media freedoms research report with three main findings. The research found that that while the Kenyan media may seem successful on the surface, it remains challenged by the legal pitfalls of criminal defamation, seditious libel, publication of false news and insult laws.

These challenges increasingly manifest through frequent and sometimes disproportionately large damage awards, protracted legal processes and court injunctions on matters of public interests. Self-censorship is also an increasing trend in coverage of public interest matters.

Out-of-court settlements are characteristic of conflict resolution in the media. Often journalists “responsible” for giving rise to out-of-court settlements are dismissed. Additionally, decisions made on editorial content in out of court settlements tend to be negotiated from a business perspective as opposed to the media code of conduct.  The engagement on the whole, in effect, gags the media.

The report further highlights that Kenya is the “African libel capital” due to exorbitant and disproportionate awards to politicians, senior business people and other powerful persons in Kenya. These have been a key factor in the detrimental impact on media freedoms.

The current media landscape is increasingly being defined by blurred lines between politics, media ownership and business. Unless the legal framework deals with the adverse effects of political ownership of the media and cross media ownership, the success story of Kenyan media may soon dim,” said Henry Maina, Director of Article 19 Eastern Africa.

The report finds that there is a continued lack of political will to fully implement the Constitutional safeguards of media freedoms. It cites instances of violations of the Constitution in general and in the media specifically, including the failings evident in the newly enacted media laws and failure to review existing laws for consistency with the Constitution.

Progressive media oversight is hampered by the entrenchment of state-controlled regulators who continue to espouse the need for content restrictions, sometimes in violation of constitutional obligations and of international and regional media standards to which Kenya is bound.

For more information on the report findings, access the report here.

ARTICLE 19 urges:

  • The Executive to exercise regulatory oversight of the media in compliance with constitutional, regional and international standards on media freedoms.
  • The Parliament of Kenya to review all existing laws whose provisions do not adhere to constitutional, regional and international media freedoms standards and obligations.
  • The Judiciary to apply and initiate progressive jurisprudence on media freedoms.
  • Media and freedom of expression advocates to not only advocate for the development of progressive frameworks, but advocate for substantial improvements in the media landscape through their proper implementation.

FOR MEDIA INTERVIEWS: Please contact: Henry Maina, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa, [email protected] or call 0727862230

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Please contact: Stephanie Muchai, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa, [email protected] or call 0727862230