This year the world witnessed the unprecedented shutdown of four media houses by the government after the live coverage of the mock swearing-in of Nasa principal Raila Odinga as the People’s President.
This was the first of its kind in the history of Kenya excluding the digital migration dispute between media houses and the government in 2016.
The government violated the rights enshrined in the 2010 Constitution after it switched off Royal Media Services’ Citizen TV and Inooro TV, Nation Media Group’s NTV and Standard Media Group’s KTN on January 30.
Article 33 (2) of the Constitution states that all media houses are independent of control by the government, political interests or commercial interests.
“The State shall not not exercise control over or interfere with any person engaged in broadcasting, the production or circulation of any dissemination of information by any medium,” Constitution says.
It further states that the government shall not penalise any person for an opinion, view or content of any broadcast or publication.
The state also went against the High Court’s decision to lift the ban a week later.
Royal media had initially filed a case challenging the shut down, but withdrew the case after it was reopened on February 8.
However, activist Okiya Omtatah sued Interior CS Fred Matiang’i, ICT CS Joe Mucheru and the Communications Authority board. The case is yet to be mentioned.
Star editor Francis Mureithi says the move to shut down the TV stations was retrogressive and did not make sense since there are many other ways to share information like through social media.
” Any government that attacks the media is because they fear citizenry. They should actually use this medium to set the record straight instead of attacking it. The government should let media freedom thrive,” Murethi said on December 16.
“And it is not only the national government, county governments have now shown a habit of being intolerant. They should allow journalists to do their work and stop the attacks it only shows they are hiding something,” he added.
Media owners to blame
While many blamed media owners for not speaking up against the shut down, no action was taken against the government.
Veteran journalist Macharia Gaitho during the Editor’s Guild Convention in Nairobi on December 8 blamed media practitioners for not uniting in the fight for democratic space in Kenya.
“One of the most traumatic and shameful period in my many years of practice was the government’s shutdown of live coverage. Worse still, some of us as the media participated in it,”Gaitho said. “Good journalism challenges power, rather than cozying up to it.”
“We need to weed out the ‘Githeri Media’ or ‘Fake News’ fallacy. These two phrases have been used by those who fear accountability to undermine media freedom. The Gazeti ni ya kufunga nyama mediocrity,” he added.
However, Nation Media Group CEO Stephen Gitagama lamented over how the government is yet to settle its debts to media houses saying it is undermining the work of journalists.
“I urge the government to pay its media debt. The state must uphold its obligation to promote media freedom,” he said.
Our future will always be shaky if we fail to embrace Quality Journalism.
Editor’s Guild chairman Churchill Otieno said civil threats by the government and corporates was something that needs to be addressed.
“People are more likely to embrace a credible media that they trust. It calls for professional excellence on the part of journalists through compelling stories,” he said.
Media Council chairman David Omwoyo said the government has a duty to invest in media but not use that advantage to gag it.
ICT CS Joe Mucheru however insisted they were working on how to pay up the Sh2.5 billion debt incurred for the past three years.
“Government is going to pay what it owes the media. The President is committed to ensuring this and the pressure from the media too has been noted,” he said.
Attacks on journalists
Kenya Union of Journalists secretary general Eric Oduor during the convention said at least three cases of attacks on journalists is made every week in the country.
Most of the reported attacks are by government officials.
The abduction of NTV journalist Barack Oduor was among the most talked attacks of the year.
Oduor was kidnapped in Migori alongside the late Sharon Otieno. Her body was found dumped near a thicket in Homa Bay on September 4.
On November 7, Citizen TV journalist Kimani Mbugua was assaulted after he was found filming a bribe-thirsty city askari demanding cash from a boda boda rider. Even after identifying himself as a journalist, the county officers beat him up leading to his hospitalisation.
Meru County Woman Rep Kawira Mwangaza last month attacked a Weru TV journalist at Milimani law courts because of covering the proceedings of a case involving her.
A chief from Cheptais, Mt Elgon attacked an NTV reporter for covering a story of alleged misuse of funds at a primary school.
On October 2, a Standard Group journalist’s camera was destroyed after a police officer attacked him in Homa Bay during a fracas at the county assembly.
Few weeks later, journalists from the Nyandarua were attacked and evicted from a county assembly. Radio Africa’s Ndichu Wainaina and Royal Media’s Patrice Simbili’s press cards were also confiscated by the AP officers.
Two NTV Coast journalists were in September arrested for filming the construction site of a hotel suspected to be illegally encroaching on the Indian Ocean.
The same month, a reporter was arrested for covering a dispute at the offices of a water company in Murang’a County.
Public officers above 58 years and with pre-existing conditions told to work from home: The Standard
Head of Public Service Joseph Kinyua. [File, Standard]
In a document from Head of Public Service, Joseph Kinyua new measure have been outlined to curb the bulging spread of covid-19. Public officers with underlying health conditions and those who are over 58 years -a group that experts have classified as most vulnerable to the virus will be required to execute their duties from home.
However, the new rule excluded personnel in the security sector and other critical and essential services.
“All State and public officers with pre-existing medical conditions and/or aged 58 years and above serving in CSG5 (job group ‘S’) and below or their equivalents should forthwith work from home,” read the document,” read the document.
To ensure that those working from home deliver, the Public Service directs that there be clear assignments and targets tasked for the period designated and a clear reporting line to monitor and review work done.
SEE ALSO: Thinking inside the cardboard box for post-lockdown work stations
Others measures outlined in the document include the provision of personal protective equipment to staff, provision of sanitizers and access to washing facilities fitted with soap and water, temperature checks for all staff and clients entering public offices regular fumigation of office premises and vehicles and minimizing of visitors except by prior appointments.
Officers who contract the virus and come back to work after quarantine or isolation period will be required to follow specific directives such as obtaining clearance from the isolation facility certified by the designated persons indicating that the public officer is free and safe from Covid-19. The officer will also be required to stay away from duty station for a period of seven days after the date of medical certification.
“The period a public officer spends in quarantine or isolation due to Covid-19, shall be treated as sick leave and shall be subject to the Provisions of the Human Resource Policy and procedures Manual for the Public Service(May,2016),” read the document.
The service has also made discrimination and stigmatization an offence and has guaranteed those affected with the virus to receive adequate access to mental health and psychosocial supported offered by the government.
The new directives targeting the Public Services come at a time when Kenyans have increasingly shown lack of strict observance of the issued guidelines even as the number of positive Covid-19 cases skyrocket to 13,771 and leaving 238 dead as of today.
SEE ALSO: Working from home could be blessing in disguise for persons with disabilities
Principal Secretaries/ Accounting Officers will be personally responsible for effective enforcement and compliance of the current guidelines and any future directives issued to mitigate the spread of Covid-19.
Uhuru convenes summit to review rising Covid-19 cases: The Standard
President Uhuru Kenyatta (pictured) will on Friday, July 24, meet governors following the ballooning Covid-19 infections in recent days.
The session will among other things review the efficacy of the containment measures in place and review the impact of the phased easing of the restrictions, State House said in a statement.
This story is being updated.
SEE ALSO: Sakaja resigns from Covid-19 Senate committee, in court tomorrow
Drastic life changes affecting mental health
Kenya has been ranked 6th among African countries with the highest cases of depression, this has triggered anxiety by the World Health Organization (WHO), with 1.9 million people suffering from a form of mental conditions such as depression, substance abuse.
Globally, one in four people is affected by mental or neurological disorders at some point in their lives, this is according to the WHO.
Currently, around 450 million people suffer from such conditions, placing mental disorders among the leading causes of ill-health and disability worldwide.
The pandemic has also been known to cause significant distress, mostly affecting the state of one’s mental well-being.
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With the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic attributed to the novel Coronavirus disease, millions have been affected globally with over 14 million infections and half a million deaths as to date. This has brought about uncertainty coupled with difficult situations, including job loss and the risk of contracting the deadly virus.
In Kenya the first Coronavirus case was reported in Nairobi by the Ministry of Health on the 12th March 2020. It was not until the government put in place precautionary measures including a curfew and lockdown (the latter having being lifted) due to an increase in the number of infections that people began feeling its effect both economically and socially.
A study by Dr. Habil Otanga, a Lecturer at the University of Nairobi, Department of Psychology says that such measures can in turn lead to surge in mental related illnesses including depression, feelings of confusion, anger and fear, and even substance abuse. It also brings with it a sense of boredom, loneliness, anger, isolation and frustration. In the post-quarantine/isolation period, loss of employment due to the depressed economy and the stigma around the disease are also likely to lead to mental health problems.
The Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS) states that at least 300,000 Kenyans have lost their jobs due to the Coronavirus pandemic between the period of January and March this year.
KNBC noted that the number of employed Kenyans plunged to 17.8 million as of March from 18.1 million people as compared to last year in December. The Report states that the unemployment rate in Kenya stands at 13.7 per cent as of March this year while it stood 12.4 per cent in December 2019.
Mama T (not her real name) is among millions of Kenyans who have been affected by containment measures put in place to curb the spread of the virus, either by losing their source of income or having to work under tough guidelines put in place by the MOH.
As young mother and an event organizer, she has found it hard to explain to her children why they cannot go to school or socialize freely with their peers as before.
“Sometimes it gets difficult as they do not understand what is happening due to their age, this at times becomes hard on me as they often think I am punishing them,”
Her contract was put on hold as no event or public gatherings can take place due to the pandemic. This has brought other challenges along with it, as she has to find means of fending for her family expenditures that including rent and food.
“I often wake up in the middle of the night with worries about my next move as the pandemic does not exhibit any signs of easing up,” she says. She adds that she has been forced to sort for manual jobs to keep her family afloat.
Ms. Mary Wahome, a Counseling Psychologist and Programs Director at ‘The Reason to Hope,’ in Karen, Nairobi says that such kind of drastic life changes have an adverse effect on one’s mental status including their family members and if not addressed early can lead to depression among other issues.
“We have had cases of people indulging in substance abuse to deal with the uncertainty and stress brought about by the pandemic, this in turn leads to dependence and also domestic abuse,”
Sam Njoroge , a waiter at a local hotel in Kiambu, has found himself indulging in substance abuse due to challenges he is facing after the hotel he was working in was closed down as it has not yet met the standards required by the MOH to open.
“My day starts at 6am where I go to a local pub, here I can get a drink for as little as Sh30, It makes me suppress the frustration I feel.” he says.
Sam is among the many who have found themselves in the same predicament and resulted to substance abuse finding ways to beat strict measures put in place by the government on the sale of alcohol so as to cope.
Mary says, situations like Sam’s are dangerous and if not addressed early can lead to serious complications, including addiction and dependency, violent behavior and also early death due to health complications.
She has, however, lauded the government for encouraging mental wellness and also launching the Psychological First Aid (PFA) guide in the wake of the virus putting emphasis on the three action principal of look, listen and link. “When we follow this it will be easy to identify an individual in distress and also offer assistance”.
Mary has urged anyone feeling the weight of the virus taking a toll on them not to hesitate but look for someone to talk to.
“You should not only seek help from a specialist but also talk to a friend, let them know what you are undergoing and how you feel, this will help ease their emotional stress and also find ways of dealing with the situation they are facing,” She added
Mary continued to stress on the need to perform frequent body exercises as a form of stress relief, reading and also taking advantage of this unfortunate COVID-19 period to engage in hobbies and talent development.
“Let people take this as an opportunity to kip fit, get in touch with one’s inner self and also engage in reading that would help expand their knowledge.