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Journalism stakeholders condemn Trade CS Moses Kuria over attack against Nation Media Group

Investments, Trade and Industry Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria. PHOTO/FILE

By ABDULHAKIM SHERMAN

newshub@eyewitness.africa

Journalism stakeholders led by the Media Council of Kenya, have condemned Investments, Trade and Industry Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria, over what they term as shocking and unfortunate remarks against Nation Media Group and its staff.

MCK CEO, David Omwoyo Omwoyo, said MCK takes great exception to the ongoing attacks and profiling of the media and journalists, which is a big threat to independent and free media in the country.

“The attention of the Council has been drawn to the shocking and unfortunate remarks made by Investments, Trade and Industry Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria against Nation Media Group and its staff. In his remarks, both on video and text dated 18th June 2023, circulating in social media, the CS threatens public officers against advertising on NMG platforms, with sacking, which amounts to commercial censorship and incitement of the public against the media house,” Mr Omwoyo said in a statement.

Others who condemned the utterances by the Trade and Industry Cabinet Secretary, included; Ms Agnes Kalekye, chairperson, Media Owners Association of Kenya,  Mr Eric Oduor, Secretary General of the Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ), President of Kenya Editors Guild (KEG), Ms  Zubeidah Kananu and Nation Media Group, Head of External Affairs, Mr Clifford Machoka.

Mr Omwoyo said further in his tweet on the same dates, Mr Kuria made derogatory remarks referring to NMG staff in unprintable words.

“The Council notes that this is the most extreme, since independence that individuals have pushed media and government relations to the brink and lowered the country’s dignity. The Conduct of the Cabinet Secretary falls below the threshold as set out in Chapter Six of the Kenyan Constitution for state officers as well as Article 34 on media freedom since they amount to profiling and targeting of specific journalists working for a media house,” he said.

The MCK CEO added that disagreements and misunderstandings are the hallmark of a democracy and while MCK appreciate the government’s concerns about perceived negative coverage in the media, it is important that the media receives a coherent and consistent narrative from the State to enable a balanced coverage of government initiatives.

“As a democracy, we must appreciate the watchdog role of the media to hold government and those in power to account. This will mostly be perceived as an attack and may make certain people uncomfortable,” he noted.

Media Council of Kenya CEO, David Omwoyo Omwoyo. PHOTO/UGC

Mr Omwoyo said public officials have a duty to provide timely and accurate information to ensure an informed public adding that the professional conduct of media and its workers is governed by the Code of Conduct for the practice of Journalism while the Media Complaints Commission is mandated to handle grievances against media.

He said the Media Council is urgently engaging government and media stakeholders to address the relationship between government and media to protect freedom of the media and ensure accurate coverage of public affairs and decent handling of grievances when they arise.

Mr Oduor, the SG of the Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ), said the Trade and Industrialisation Cabinet Secretary was now becoming a symbol of national shame yet his actions and utterances should promote positive image of Kenya as a nation.

“In line with tenets of leadership and integrity law. His reactions to media reports regarding one of the many scandals that have hit Kenya Kwanza administration within a span of 10 months, are not only an embarrassment to Kenyans, but a confirmation that his stomach is full and can belch and eventually vomit on the shoes of hungry Kenyans with impunity,” the KUJ SG said.

Mr Odour said celebrated philosopher Plato said leaders are mirrors of the society and fell short of asking President William Ruto to take disciplinary action against Mr Kuria.

“I can assure Mr Kuria that the media will outlive his political career and will be waiting with glee to write his political obituary,” he added.

KEG President, Ms Zubeidah Kananu, said KEG was disturbed by Mr Kuria’s attack against Nation Media Group through use of foul language which she said was uncharacteristic of a state officer of his rank.

“If a State Officer or any Kenyan for that matter, is aggrieved by the work of the media, they have an array of avenues to raise them, including pursuing the legal route or reaching out to the media entity concerned,” Ms Kananu said.

Zubeida Kananu, President of Kenya Editor’s Guild, addressing the Annual Media Summit in Nairobi during the World Press Freedom Day. PHOTO/Courtesy.

The KEG President said Mr Kuria’s remarks have taken the country back nearly 30 years ago when the late Mulu Mutisya, a one-party dictatorship zealot, described journalists in similar terms.

“Kenya Editors’ Guild expects unconditional apology from CS Kuria following these unfortunate remarks. Editors, journalists and all media practitioners expect assurance from the Kenya Kwanza administration that the sentiments expressed by CS Kuria do not represent the policy of government,” she added.

Ms Kalekye, the chairperson, Media Owners Association of Kenya, said the association is alarmed by threats made against the media, specifically the targeted attack against Nation Media Group by CS Kuria.

She said if the CS was aggrieved or disputes any details of any articles published by Nation Media Group, there are established and legal channels through which he can resolve them.

“It is unfortunate that the Cabinet Secretary Kuria has chosen to threaten the media with withdrawal of State advertising. This is clear and unequivocal blackmail, contrary to the legal provisions with regard to State advertising,” Ms Kalekye said.

The Media Owners Association of Kenya asked the Media Council of Kenya to exercise its powers and initiate investigations against CS Kuria for his blatant attack against the media.

Nation Media Group, Head of External Affairs, Mr Machoka condemned what he termed as unprovoked verbal attack against the media company by Mr Kuria.

“The Trade CS, in a public address on Sunday, vowed that he would not allow any government agency to advertise in the Nation, essentially declaring a commercial war on the media house. Later on, CS Kuria posted on his official Twitter handle, in unbelievably derogatory language, a statement that insulted Nation staff as well as the principal shareholder of the Group, His Highness the Aga Khan who has invested immensely in the development of Kenya and Africa at large,” he said.

Mr Machoka said Mr Kuria had so far not disclosed his grievances against the Nation Media Group, but they seem to be related to publication by the Sunday Nation newspaper of an expose detailing taxpayer losses from a dubious, duty-free edible oils import scheme undertaken by the Kenya National Trading Corporation (KNTC), which falls under his Trade ministry docket.

The NMG Head of External Affairs said this is not the first time that CS Kuria was pouring vitriol against the media company, and the media in general as at the height of the Covid-19 pandemic; he urged the public to shun buying newspapers as a way of keeping the virus at bay.

“He is also on record as having used an expletive on a Nation journalist on live television during his tenure as Gatundu South MP,” Mr Machoka.

 

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