Growing up, whenever I was sick, there were two major ways of administering medicine. Either I would be given the medicine to take orally or sometimes I would get an injection.
My mother preferred injections. I, on the other hand, hated injections, first, because I had to lower my pants and expose my behind (I found it to be quite emasculating) and the painful feeling that the needle left when it penetrated my flesh and muscles.
What do behind, syringes, and propaganda have got to do with media and Jubilee?
In media school, of all my classes, I particularly enjoyed theories of the human communication unit. In that unit, Magic Bullet or Hypodermic Needle Theory of mass communication interested me the most.
This theory submits a view that the mass media has a powerful influence on the mass audience and could deliberately alter or control peoples’ behaviour. In simple terms, the mass media can influence a very large group of people directly and uniformly by ‘shooting’ or ‘injecting’ them with appropriate messages designed to trigger the desired response.
The imagery use of bullet and needle suggest a powerful and direct flow of information from the sender to the receiver. Just like the syringe that injects medicine, media can act as a powerful way for the bearer of the ‘syringe’ to inject what he/she wants you to get.
The jubilee Government started their term in office in an incredible manner.
They had the goodwill of young people having ridden on the ‘analogue vs. digital’ platform, the president was winning on the Public Relations (PR) front and he seemed unstoppable. The president and his deputy were wearing matching ties, shirts etc. as they dispensed their duties. The ‘bromance’ was felt across Kenya. After all, nobody had imagined that people who were facing crimes against humanity could win the elections in Kenya.
With all the challenges that they had faced, no one could have thought that the UhuRuto duo would actually survive this far. By surviving the torrents of the famous rallying call of “Choices have consequences,” we have seen a depth of resilience in Uhuru and Ruto. Tragedy catapulted them to power.
Yet the human nature is inclined to relax once the storms are over. Of all the mistakes that Jubilee has made so far, discrediting the media seems to be the one straw that might break the ‘camel’s back.’
When the Jubilee administration came to power, the president held a breakfast meeting with senior journalists and bloggers in the state house. While a chorus of condemnation came from a section of Kenyans who argued that an independent fourth estate should not ‘go to bed’ with the executive, the gesture received loud applause and was termed as a new dawn for the media and Government relations in Kenya.
Yet hot on the heels of the state house visit, the president reduced the newspapers to mere ‘meat wrappers’ never minding that his family has invested heavily in the industry. Before the dust settled on the meat wrapping condemnation, the president through the ‘tyranny of numbers’ in parliament passed the controversial Security Laws Act which had around Eight offensive clauses. One of them would have seen journalists pay up to Sh5 million fine or a jail term of three years.
Thankfully, some of these clauses were declared unconstitutional by the courts.
When the storm of the security amendments acts had subsided, the media fraternity was woken from their slumber during the digital migration period. For the first time in the history of our country, leading media houses were shut down. Pundits have blamed both sides for either laxity to embrace change or for intentional curtailing of the media freedom.
Remember the Kenya Information and Communication (Amendment) Act (KICA) and the Media Council Act that were enacted in 2013? Appeals that were handled by the statutory Media Council of Kenya were swiftly transferred to a government-appointed Communication and Multimedia Appeals Tribunal.
The Government appointed appeals tribunal can charge individual journalists fines of up to 500,000 shillings, and media companies up to 20 million shillings if they are found in breach of a government-dictated code of conduct drafted & passed by a Jubilee controlled parliament.
According to Freedom House, an independent watchdog organisation dedicated to the expansion of freedom and democracy around the world, Kenya’s press freedom score is average and stands at 58 / 100 in 2016.
The cartoonist Gado and Dennis Galava, all left the Nation Media Group in 2016 amid allegations that the phone calls that got them fired came from the state house.
The latest attempt in what appears to be a dedicated resolve by the Jubilee administration’s sinister plan to crush the media in Kenya is the denying of advertising revenue to media houses. A special Cabinet meeting in February resolved to start a publication by the state referred to as MY.GOV. This is where all adverts will be published starting immediately.
The move has been termed as a slap in the face by the media fraternity at a time when the state owes different media houses over Sh1 billion in unpaid adverts.
If this move goes through, Kenyans are about to see more layoffs because about 30 per cent of media advertising revenue comes from the government.
Only insecure administrations with sinister motives to illegitimately cling on to power crush the media.
The increasing willingness to declare journalism only good for meat wrapping in the face of unrestrained corruption and the era of fake news should worry every Kenyan. Remember that repressive regimes are not born, they are made.
What should worry every right thinking Kenya is the continued use of the media as the convenient scapegoat when indeed the fourth estate keeps asking valid questions. Remember that a negative attack unanswered is a negative attack believed.
A country without any independent fourth estate, the judiciary and the legislature who act as arbiters of facts and truth is a country in which the possibility of civil discourse is impossible.