Mucheru tells media: We will pay Sh2.5bn advertising debt
Minister gave the assurance following prompting from NMG boss as editors’ convention ends
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.