Mucheru tells me­dia: We will pay Sh2.5bn ad­ver­tis­ing debt

Min­is­ter gave the as­sur­ance fol­low­ing prompt­ing from NMG boss as ed­i­tors’ con­ven­tion ends

Daily Nation (Kenya) - - NATIONAL NEWS - BY ANITA CHEPKOECH

Achep­[email protected]­tion­media.com

The govern­ment has once again as­sured me­dia houses that it will set­tle the Sh2.5 bil­lion it owes them.

Speak­ing dur­ing an ed­i­tors' con­ven­tion in Nairobi yes­ter­day, In­for­ma­tion and Com­mu­ni­ca­tion Tech­nol­ogy Cab­i­net Sec­re­tary Joe Mucheru said the govern­ment re­gards the me­dia as a crit­i­cal part­ner in devel­op­ment and will set­tle the debt as soon as pos­si­ble.

The govern­ment, through its ad­ver­tis­ing agency (GAA), owes me­dia houses Sh2.5 bil­lion ac­crued in the last three years. But there has been un­cer­tainty on whether or when GAA will pay.

The CS promised to have the money paid even though he didn't give any time­lines.

It was the sec­ond time the govern­ment was promis­ing to hon­our its obli­ga­tion, but only af­ter pres­sure from the me­dia.

Mr Mucheru gave his as­sur­ance mo­ments af­ter Na­tion Me­dia Group chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer Stephen Gitagama had im­plored the govern­ment to pay up as a mat­ter of re­spect to the Fourth Es­tate.

Mr Mucheru was speak­ing dur­ing the first Ed­i­tors' Con­ven­tion or­gan­ised by the Kenya Ed­i­tors' Guild (KEG) at Villa Rosa Kempin­ski in Nairobi.

The fo­rum was at­tended by, among others, United States Am­bas­sador Robert Godec, KEG chair­man Churchill Otieno and ICT Prin­ci­pal Sec­re­tary Fa­tuma Hirsi. "I know that is the ele­phant in the room. We face pres­sure from above and from you … The Pres­i­dent al­ways re­minds me to ‘fin­ish' with the me­dia," Mr Mucheru said. "We re­gard the me­dia as a crit­i­cal part­ner in devel­op­ment. Me­dia is part of the mod­ern so­ci­ety and with im­mense power in shap­ing the dy­nam­ics of the mod­ern econ­omy," he added.

The CS noted that Tech­nol­ogy had rev­o­lu­tionised the way me­dia reaches its au­di­ence with mes­sages that not only pro­mote prod­ucts and ser­vices but also in­flu­ence at­ti­tudes and be­hav­iour.

Mr Gitagama said the con­ven­tion was an im­por­tant plat­form to dis­cuss is­sues like the thin line be­tween ed­i­to­rial and com­mer­cial in­ter­ests of me­dia houses.

"Jour­nal­ism con­tin­ues to oc­cupy an im­por­tant place, but it's not just any jour­nal­ism. It is qual­ity jour­nal­ism which is founded on a bedrock of a set of core val­ues that in­clude in­de­pen­dent voices, di­ver­sity and free­dom of ex­pres­sion, voice for the rule of law and hu­man rights, among others," he said.

Mr Gitagama said there are many threats to me­dia free­dom across the world. "Which is why it gives me great plea­sure to see such an ini­tia­tive which brings to­gether ed­i­tors, jour­nal­ists and other stake­hold­ers to re­flect on is­sues af­fect­ing the in­dus­try while cel­e­brat­ing the mile­stones we have made so far," he said.

Mr Godec un­der­scored the im­por­tance of in­clu­sion of women across var­i­ous me­dia de­part­ments, say­ing that is the hall­mark of an in­clu­sive and fair so­ci­ety.

He said the con­ven­tion is part of build­ing a strong and healthy democ­racy. "We will con­tinue to de­fend a free, vi­brant and pro­fes­sional me­dia. The US em­bassy is pleased to sup­port the Ed­i­tors' Guild and we have set aside Sh20 mil­lion to­wards sup­port­ing me­dia free­dom and in­de­pen­dence,” Mr Godec said.

"We un­der­take train­ing for jour­nal­ists on eth­i­cal jour­nal­ism and ad­dress­ing other prob­lems like fake news," he added.

The two-day event brought to­gether ed­i­tors, jour­nal­ists and other in­dus­try play­ers to de­lib­er­ate on the fu­ture of jour­nal­ism, me­dia reg­u­la­tion and free­dom, so­cial me­dia, and dis­in­for­ma­tion, among other is­sues.

Me­dia Coun­cil of Kenya pro­grammes man­ager Vic­tor Bwire rep­re­sented the me­dia reg­u­la­tor while Kenya Union of Jour­nal­ists was rep­re­sented by its sec­re­tary-gen­eral Erick Oduor.

KEG Chair­man Mr Churchill Otieno, who spoke on be­half of the Ex­ec­u­tive Com­mit­tee, noted it was the in­au­gu­ral con­ven­tion and hoped it would be held an­nu­ally.

“It is a priv­i­leged oc­ca­sion for us to con­sider how far we have gone in re­al­is­ing ex­cel­lence in jour­nal­ism, and what else we must do to ef­fec­tively play our role in Kenya's growth and devel­op­ment,” said Mr Otieno.

He thanked the US em­bassy, var­i­ous me­dia or­gan­i­sa­tions and part­ners for sup­port­ing the two-day event.

Na­tion Me­dia Group Chief Ex­ec­u­tive Of­fi­cer Stephen Gitagama (cen­tre) with Stan­dard Group Ed­i­to­rial Di­rec­tor Joe Odindo (left) and Dr Nancy Booker from theAga Khan Univer­sity dur­ing the ed­i­tors’ con­ven­tion yes­ter­day.

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