Last night some bloggers and I went to the American Ambassador’s house to celebrate World Press Freedom Day. Usually the US embassy has an event for journalists to celebrate the same. The unique thing about this time is that for the first time they had bloggers present.
It comes as a pleasant surprise when bloggers are recognised by a government for the critical role they play. In Kenya the role of bloggers is usually underplayed by both the government and the general public. Some of the media houses and journalists tend to see bloggers as competition or even worse they downplay the role of bloggers.
In Kenya the Director Digital Strategy, Innovation & Diaspora Relations, Dennis Itumbi is or was a blogger. But in the one year or so that he has held the post bloggers have not been invited to State House as part of media. This is perhaps telling of how the Government of Kenya still sees Kenyan bloggers, as having an insignificant role in creating awareness on what the government is doing.
Yesterday at the event I was shy to say that I am a blogger. Usually because of bad perception of the name Kenyan bloggers, due to a few rogue bloggers including he who shall not be named, sometimes one is careful about saying one is a blogger. I find it easy to say among creative’s or people who know what blogging is about. It is hard on the other hand to convince people of my mother’s generation that bloggers are not all bad but again saying that you are a writer is like saying you’re an artist; they can see you being poor for the rest of your life because writing or art doesn’t pay well.
I am proud to be a blogger, but sometimes I say it like I am being apologetic. I then qualify it by saying I have a 9 to 5 job because hey some people think all we do is stay home in pajamas and write. I look forward to a day when I will be a full time writer/blogger and I will not have apologies to make. When the name will not be tainted by rogue bloggers or people’s perception that bloggers are idle people with nothing else to do. I look forward to a day when I can say I am going for a press briefing at state house, as part of the media.
I know my dreams are valid. Slowly, but surely we will get there. It is an honour to be invited to another country’s celebration of freedom of the press, especially if it is the US embassy’s celebration. But it feels bad that a prophet is not recognized in their own home town. We hope that things will change, and get better for bloggers. We have come so far as evidenced by the 3rd annual BAKE awards held at the Intercontinental Hotel last Saturday. People voted for their favourite bloggers and it was trilling to see the numbers of people who voted. It was also amazing to see so many bloggers in one place, celebrating each other and also celebrating how far blogging has come.
We look forward to bigger and better things even as BAKE seeks to continuously train bloggers in writing better content, and expose them to new networks where they can flourish. We look forward to a day when State House will be open to bloggers, not as an afterthought (it wouldn’t be so bad if they started it now) but also understand and support our vision of informing and entertaining Kenyans online. As I said and this is my challenge to Itumbi, we need more recognition from the government. I remember the former Vice President once meet key social media players. The Prime Minister as well once tried to meet with influential bloggers/twitterati to have conversations. I would love to see this happen with the President as well or the Vice President. We could even start with Itumbi meeting bloggers and having discussions on the role of social media in the Kenyan space.
In the meantime I dream. I dream that my dreams are valid. Blogger you dreams are valid.
Here is a except from the US Ambassador’s speech.
“Freedom of expression and freedom of the media are enshrined in Kenya’s constitution, just as they are in ours. Having served in Kenya in the 1990s, the vibrant Kenyan media is one of the first things that struck me when I returned. Today, Kenyans are free to say what they want without fear of arrest. Kenya’s media has blossomed and diversified at incredible speed. It would be hard, I think, to find a more dynamic media on the continent. We all enjoy and rely upon the many Kenyan daily newspapers, television stations, and the bewildering number of radio stations for our daily information. The expansion of social media in Kenya is another great success. The Twitterati are everywhere, and the media landscape is shifting rapidly toward more decentralized reporting. These developments are exciting and important. They reflect the deep desire that we all have to express ourselves freely, to contribute to the national debate, to be part of building a better world.”