The Kenya Editors Guild in collaboration with partners held the first Town Hall meeting of the year on Friday February 21, 2020 in Kajiado.

Representatives from the national and county governments, civil society, religious leaders, security personnel and others attended the forum held at Enchula Resort in Kajiado Town, and commended journalists based in the region for working tirelessly to highlight issues in the expansive county.

While acknowledging the “media as a reflection of society, ” the Kajiado Central Deputy County Commissioner Charles Wambugu, applauded members of the fourth estate for contributing to the success of the 100 percent transition of pupils from primary to secondary school in the area. Mr. Wambugu urged locals to “ make the media your friend” adding that it is because of the journalists based in Kajiado that cases of female genital mutilation and early marriages that were previously common in the county have reduced.

Kajiado is one of the largest counties in the country boasting six sub-counties and five constituencies and extends to the Kenya –Tanzania border of Namanga. It also borders five counties namely; Nairobi, Machakos, Makueni, Taita Taveta and Kiambu. In light of this, John Ole Patain, a village elder and chairperson of the community health volunteers made a passionate appeal to Editors to deploy more journalists to the region saying “they are few and do a good job but there is so much to cover. “

At the same time participants interrogated decisions made by the media when it comes to agenda setting, gate keeping and ethical considerations in broadcasting or publishing disturbing pictures of violence, bloodshed  and other images or (and) footage.

Some of the questions posed were;

  • Why does the media sometimes media airs/publishes information contrary to what happened?
  • Why does  the media sometime air/publish information or pictures that are likely to cause trauma?
  • Why do politicians make news  and not the “ordinary” people? Do politicians pay for coverage?
  • Why was the coverage of the Kakamega primary school stampede tragedy minimal compared to   retired President Daniel Arap Moi’s death and funeral?
  • Why do media (Print) like sensational/alarmist headlines?
  • Why are stories from the grassroots often killed?
  • Why do anchors, during live interviews, put interviewees on the spot by persisting in a line of questioning that clearly makes them uncomfortable?

About 20 journalists are based in Kajiado. A section of them who attended the Town Hall meeting pointed out the challenges they experience in the course of their work. Among these include transport. They said it is costly to pursue stories in remote areas.  They sometimes have to rely on sources for transport. While such requests are mostly genuine they said sometimes transport facilitation maybe misinterpreted by sources as corruption. However, while acknowledging the limitations, a representative from the County Women Representative office, Sheila Osun, accused some journalists of abusing the goodwill to the extent of demanding an out of pocket allowance in addition to transport.  She called on media owners to adequately facilitate and remunerate their reporters to avoid exposing them to pecuniary embarrassments, which may compromise their independence and performance.

Journalists also expressed the need for specialized training. They are especially in need of training on safety and investigative reporting to enhance their capacity to source for news that has a more national outlook. They believe better produced stories stand better chances of being published or broadcast.

The Kajiado forum was also the second Town Hall meeting under the project dubbed Safeguarding Democracy In Kenya (SADES-K) Funded by USAID and Family Health International (FHI 360). The fund helps a consortium of professional organisations including the Kenya Editors’ Guild, the Kenya Union of Journalists, Association of Media Women in Kenya and the Media Council of Kenya.  Internews is the technical advisor of the project.