With the country digesting claims by Fafi MP Salah Yakub that President William Ruto’s party UDA will seek to remove term limits on the presidency, Kenyan editors appear to be having their own battle over a similar move in their umbrella organisation.
The Kenya Editors Guild (KEG) is understood to be facing an internal revolt over a plot by the President, Mr Churchill Otieno, to have the organisation’s constitution changed to extend his tenure beyond the two-term limit.
The KEG constitution provides that the President and Vice President shall be elected by the Guild members for a term of two (2) years – and shall be eligible for re-election for a second and final term. But a proposed amendment, which is said to be causing disquiet among guild members, states that “the President and Vice-President shall be elected by the members for one term of five years. They shall not be eligible for re-election.”
Mr Otieno, who is a managing editor at Nation Media Group, has however dismissed the reports, indicating his is not aware of such a plan. “There’s no such thing,” Mr Otieno told BT. “This is completely misinformed.
He explained that the KEG constitution is for members and not his personal document. “I play no role. I am not interested,” he stated.
This amendment, according to sources, is expected to be discussed during the organisation’s annual convention scheduled for early December in Diani. Someone close to KEG executive said given the heat amendment has caused, it is likely to be tabled during the Annual General Meeting (AGM) on the last day of the convention. The KEG constitution requires two-thirds of members present to pass the amendment.
If passed, Churchill Otieno will be eligible for a third term as the amendment will not apply retrospectively. Insiders say the amendment could sail through easily since few members are expected to attend this year due to the high cost (Ksh20,000) of participation. Attendance and accommodation fees in the past three years had been subsidised at Ksh7,000 but many donors are said to have cut off support.
Strong resistance against KEG is said to be coming from the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) which, despite having a high membership in the Guild, feels ‘mistreated’ by the top leadership. In the last elections, KBC Editor-in-Chief Samuel Maina was removed and replaced by Zubeida Kananu of KTN, leaving the national broadcaster without a single member in the Executive Council.
Following complaints of media house imbalance and dominance by one media house as well as regional bias, it is understood the president picked Sammy Muraya, an online journalist who writes on human rights, as a council member, which is not provided for in the constitution.
A lady member of the Executive Council, from the Standard Media Group, who had stood out for questioning operations was reportedly voted out during the election. Many members complained in journalists’ groups that the election, which was conducted virtually due to Covid-19 restrictions then, was “opaque in nature and impossible to monitor.”
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KBC was in uproar again during the presidential debates of the last general election where the Guild was accused of replacing the national broadcaster’s moderators with those from other media houses.
The Guild is also said to be facing cash constraints after failing to secure financial donor support from partners. The Kenya Media Council, a traditional supporter of KEG, is said to be withholding financial support for the December Diani convention since KEG is yet to account for cash given to it for previous events as well as subscription fees collected from members.