Charles Kerich, chief editor at The Star, read the riot act.

Media Council of Kenya wants journalists with political interests sacked

Journalists with open political interests may soon have their leash shortened. The Media Council of Kenya (MCK) is pushing to have such journalists and media practitioners who have declared affiliation to political parties or indicated interest to vie for elective positions in 2017 kicked out of newsrooms in what is seen as a drive to increase professionalism and eliminate conflict of interests ahead of the 2017 general election.

The council’s newly appointed chairman Charles Kerich, who is also the editor in chief of Radio Africa Group, said the presence of journalists with  political affiliation breaches the Code of Ethics for the practice of journalism. Kerich stated that the Council will withdraw the accreditation of journalists who work for political parties, meaning they will not be authorised to work as media practitioners in the country.

“We’ve all campaigns posters circulating with some of your colleagues declaring to be running for specific seats in specific parties,” he said. “This is why we are saying that it might be difficult for them to continue operating in a news room and continue to be perceived as being impartial.”

Kerich also warned media practitioners from affiliating with political parties saying that they must be perceived to be neutral.

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A number of journalists have expressed interest in vying for various parliamentary seats in the upcoming elections. They include KTN’s investigative reporter, Mohamed Ali, of the Jicho Pevu series; Standard digital editor David Ohito; Star columnist and former Standard quality editor Oketch Kendo; Citizen TV’s David Makali, who is a former managing editor of the Standard; former Citizen TV reporter Kendagor Obadia, Anderson Ojwang, formerly Standard as well as Kameme FM presenter Njogu wa Njoroge.

There are other journalists in the newsroom who are known to be openly associated with either CORD or Jubilee and have been on the defensive.  

“This is a newsroom problem,” said Eric Nyakagwa, the former political editor of the People Daily. “In fact, editors encourage the trend so as to get inside stories and exclusives from these political parties.”

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That trend may have to stop if the MCK finds a way of getting media managers and owners to play on its side. All the four daily newspapers have specific journalists aligned to the different political movements and their political inclinations often come out even through their reporting which, to a higher degree, compromises journalism ethics.

The fact that this agenda is being championed by Kerich, a newsroom insider, adds weight to the general feeling in the industry that most political reporters are mouth pieces of political parties who end up creating political fiefdoms in the newsrooms.



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