According to the Daily Nation of Monday, October 14th 2013, the CEO of Media Council of Kenya Harun Mwangi said “bloggers who want to be recognized as journalists will be forced to undertake diploma and degree courses in mass communication.” This was said in the context that bloggers are very unprofessional and abusing social media platforms.
I was having a discussion with some of my fellow bloggers today about the issue and its implications for bloggers across Kenya. So I have decided to write a blogpost about it.
Let me start by definitions. My university lecturers say that when you are talking about a topic you should start by giving definitions.
A journalist according to the online Oxford Dictionary is “a person who writes for newspapers or magazines or prepares news to be broadcast on radio or television.”
The same dictionary has a definition of a blog “a Web site containing the writer’s or group of writers’ own experiences, observations, opinions, etc., and often having images and links to other Web sites.”
According to the dictionary a blog is personal and contains a writer’s own opinions and observations whereas a journalist writes for a newspaper, magazine or for broadcast. Those seem far apart or is it just me?
According to what I have read about the mandate of the Media Council of Kenya this is who you are. The Media Council of Kenya is a statutory body established in October 2007 by the Media Act CAP 411B as the leading institution in the regulation of media and the conduct and discipline of journalists. The Council is the leading institution in the regulation of media and the conduct and discipline of journalists in Kenya.
The Council is guided by the vision of a society where media freedom is respected, upheld, protected, and maintained and where journalists, media practitioners and media houses are professional, responsible and adhere to media ethics.
I don’t see a mention there of websites. I don’t think websites are listed there under media. If the Media Council of Kenya wants to regulate websites as a form of media it then means that it needs to get the necessary authority. Even if it does have the mandate how far does it go. And since every other company has a website then it means it will have to regulate both company and personal websites.
Frankly I don’t see why the Media Council of Kenya is bothering with bloggers when it can’t even deal professionally with journalists who break journalism code of ethics.
A few incidences come to mind.
Westgate – so called journalist professionals calling people stuck in Westgate hiding from terrorists and asking them where they were hiding. And allowing the information to be played out on National TV or radio. Is that professional? Ethical even?
A certain media house showing us horrible images from the Westgate tragedy on the front paper, an oversized image in fact to make it worse. Was that what professional journalism is about?
Media houses showing us the army guys, their weapons and telling us their strategies to get into Westgate on live TV so that they can be the ones with “breaking news!” Is that professional?
Is it professional when people who had been stuck inside Westgate for a day or two got out for them to be ambushed by news hungry journalists without even being allowed to get first aid or even food? Oh our journalists are so professional and ethical. It’s amazing how bloggers should be jumping to get training in order to become “professionals!”
A journalist who may have “accidentally” tweeted the name of a witness at the ICC. Or was the person hacked for just one tweet. Only God knows the answer to that question.
I know that some bloggers can be a pain. I personally don’t like Alai (we have bad blood) but he did a fantastic job (I am about to choke on that sentence) of informing the public what was actually going on at Westgate while the government was being shady with the truth. He made “professional” journalists look bad.
I don’t think Media Council of Kenya should be allowed to regulate bloggers. My blog is my own personal form of self expression. It may not make you happy but it is mine. My right to freedom of speech as protected in the new constitution. If Media Council of Kenya want to address issues of hate speech and the like, there are legal mechanisms for that. That is why Alai was taken to Court.
The reasons people blog are varied and personal. Some blog because – • They have a passion for writing. • They have a passion for a cause like environment, food, marketing, communication, social justice etc. • some want to share their passion or profession. Have you ever seen the website of Mutua Matheka @truthslinger. • Some give great advice – spiritual or otherwise. • Some blogs address social issues like rape, mental illness, lack of education, FGM etc. • Some are inspirational blogs. They inspire you to be a better person. • Some bloggers review products or gargets. Tell you which products are out, their advantages, and disadvantages. • Some people blog because they have a talent with words, and playing around with them. These are the poets etc. • Some people analyze business markets and issues. They give you the breakdown of how business works and who is doing what. • Some blogs deal with entertainment. What is happening in the entertainment industry. The places to be seen at. • Some deal with relationships like dating, parenting, and pregnancy.
Many write because they are looking for a way to write about the issues they are passionate about. And to be honest trying to break into mainstream media is pretty hard. Soon Media Council of Kenya will say that writers and poets must be regulated. And what a shame that will be.
Media Council if you can’t deal with the issues that plague journalists and Media companies that actually pay you to help them out please I politely ask that you keep out of our personal space. My blog is my personal space. It doesn’t fall under your mandate and as long as I am not breaking the law please stay out of my way.
Ps. I am a “trained” journalist with “papers from Daystar” – Diploma, Degree and Masters in Communication so I have the qualifications so don’t take this post as being just from another blogger with no professional training. Some of the bloggers I know write way better then me on so many issues. It is not about the papers or training but about the understanding of subject matter and a keen sense of detail.
By the way if you are seriously interested as a council to do something about bloggers include them in your representation of council members. We have for example the Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) which is a registered entity. Don’t look down on us. The future of writing and reading is online. So get to know us. Don’t regulate us and say that bloggers who want to be journalists have to go to back to university to do a diploma or degree. Who told you we want to be journalists? Speaking of which are all people who do news, business news, sports news, entertainment news, politics and leisure etc in media stations and newspapers journalists. Did all of them study communication?
You say that your mission is to safeguard media freedom but it seems to me that you want to curtail my use of personal media. That is not what the Media Council of Kenya should be about.
As Jesus said “let he without sin cast the first stone!”