NAIROBI, Kenya, May 2 – The sustainability question dominated a stakeholders meeting organized by the Media Council of Kenya on Sunday, a day before the World Press Freedom Day.
The COVID-19 pandemic was singled out as one of the biggest threats to the viability of newsrooms with the negative impact on the economy shrinking the source of income for media players.
But can the media address financial challenges be independence and how can practitioners be cushioned?
Kenya Union of Journalists Secretary General Eric Odour said: “We need to think of a stimulus package that is supported by the government. We also need a media sustainability fund to help the media conduct training, mentorship and research. We need to lobby the govt to come up with this fund.”
He added that, “Media sustainability debate can only be viable if we fix working conditions of journalists to attract and retain talent and necessary skills as a priority,”
Cheryl Akinyi from the Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa said the media must come up with a different financing model.
“Resilience and innovation are going to be the name of the game as we look ahead. But it is all talk if we do not put our money where the mouth is,” Akinyi said.
Her sentiments were echoed by Benard Ogoim from the Journalists for Human Rights.
“With technology disrupting traditional media business models, can the media and media development partners consider a media sustainability fund that can help support struggling media houses?” Ogoi asked.
Jelimo Chelagat, from Internews Kenya added that, “the media is a business and it needs to keep its doors open. It needs to operate sustainably. With technology however, there is an emergence of people who repurpose news already published by the legacy media.”
On gender, there were calls form more women representation in the media industry.
“Women need to be represented in the media. The need for gender inclusivity is critical. We need to have women in our sphere to have a balanced world view,” Mustapha Dumbuya from the Journalists for Human Rights said.
The theme of the 2021 celebrations is Information as a Public Good, which is a call to affirm the importance of cherishing information and exploring ways of advancing transparency and journalist empowerment.
“The theme for this year’s celebration is a call to affirm the importance of cherishing information & exploring what can be done in the production, distribution,and reception of content to strengthen journalism, and to advance transparency and empowerment while leaving no one behind,” the MCK said in a statement.
The Press Freedom Day celebration coincides with the 30th year anniversary of the 1991 Windhoek Declaration for the Development of a Free, Independent and Pluralistic Press, which led the United Nations to proclaim World Press Freedom Day in 1993.
The country’s main event to mark the day shall be addressed by National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi and ICT Principal Secretary Esther Koimett.