Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua says the media should be allowed to do its job even as he called out Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria attacking the Nation Media Group (NMG).
CS Kuria had called for the cutting of all government advertising from the media house describing it as ‘rogue.’
Gachagua however emphasised that the media should be allowed the freedom to work.“I want to assure you, the Nation newspaper, whereas I agree with Moses Kuria that you have become rogue, and you are part of the Azimio brigade trying to bring down the government I don’t agree with what he has suggested that we stop advertising with you,“ he said.
“We shouldn’t because we are a democracy, and we should be able to allow you to continue doing your job. Ours is to call you out. When you go overboard, we must tell you on the face.”
This followed a public statement during an event in Embu on Sunday where Kuria accused NMG of being “an opposition party”.He made a roadside declaration ostensibly directing government agencies to stop advertising with the media house.
The CS implied that the media outlet was only appropriate for advertisements on auctions and funeral announcements and threatened to sack any state official who placed ads.“I want to tell Nation Media, you need to choose whether you are a newspaper, broadcasting house or an opposition party. From today, not even tomorrow, if anygovernment department advertises with Nation Media, know you are on your way home,” he stated.
The CS appeared to be reacting to an exposé published by NMG over the weekend detailing an alleged oil scandal under his ministry.
Media sector associations condemned Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria’s onslaught against the National Media Group as disgraceful.
In separate statements issued on Monday after Kuria called journalists “prostitutes”, the Media Owners Association (MOA), Media Council of Kenya (MCK), Kenya Editors’ Guild (KEG) and Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ) termed the minister’s remarks as a threat to free press.
Media Council CEO David Omwoyo defended the media’s watchdog role in holding the government and those in power to account.“The Council notes that this is the most extreme, since independence that individuals have pushed media and government relations to the brink and lowered the country’s dignity,” he said.
Omwoyo said Kuria’s conduct falls below the constitutional threshold of leadership and integrity for state officers.He added that there exists an array of platforms through which any party aggrieved with media reportage can lodge their complaint and have the issue at hand addressed.
“Disagreements and misunderstandings are the hallmark of a democracy. While we appreciate the government’s concerns about perceived negative coverage in the media, it is important that the media receives a coherent and consistent narrative from the State to enable a balanced coverage of government initiatives,” he added.
KEG castigated Kuria’s remarks as “unwarranted, uncalled for and totally off the mark.”
“The media plays a very important role in a democracy, including holding power to account. In doing so, the media does not operate above the law,” the guild stated.
“If a State Officer or any Kenyan for that matter, is aggrieved by the work of the media, they have an array of avenues to raise them, including pursuing the legal route or reaching out to the media entity concerned,” it added.
KEG further castigated Kuria saying, “to go out in public spaces to lambast and reduce the important work the media does to whorish business is the highest form of insult to media professionals in the country.”
KEG demanded an unequivocal apology from the Trade CS and reassurances from the Kenya Kwanza administration of President William Ruto that Kuria’s opinions do not reflect official government policy.
The guild also asked for assurance that the media companies will be given enough room to carry out their mandate.
KUJ said Kuria was “becoming a symbol of national shame” and condemned his reactions to media reports as an embarrassment to Kenyans.“We would wish to remind Mr. Kuria that he is now a Cabinet Secretary whose actions and utterances should promote a positive image of Kenya as a nation. In line with tenets of leadership and integrity law,” Secretary-General Eric Oduor said.
MOA termed Kuria’s remarks as “a clear and unequivocal blackmail, contrary to the legal provisions.”