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Uhuru’s Newspaper Dresses Down Ruto, Calls Him ‘Small-minded’

People Daily Editorial argues that the Ruto administration is a disturbing blot on media freedom and democracy

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In a no-holds barred attack, the People Daily has taken the war for media freedom to the highest office in the land. In its 19th February, 2024, editorial, which gives the publishers position on various issues, the newspaper criticises President William Ruto and his administration, arguing “the disdain by the Ruto administration for the media has never been disguised.”

The newspaper published by Mediamax Network, majority owned by the Uhuru Kenyatta family, reckons that there have been attempts by individuals in government to try and dictate what media houses report. “The Deputy President (Rigathi Gachagua) has been on a gleeful spree disparaging journalists for doing their work,” the editor writes in the editorial Media Won’t Succumb to Ruto’s Blackmail. “A Cabinet Secretary used unprintable insults against a media house and got a coy endorsement of his boss, President William Ruto.”

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The newspaper says the Ruto administration is a threat to media freedom that took years of fighting and lobbying to secure. “Kenyan media survived the darkest periods of the Moi dictatorship. Progressive, courageous and independent Kenyans in the press staked out their necks with grave risks to their lives to speak truth to power,” it says. “Undeniably, power can be delusional. We get alarmed when the small mindedness of a regime is deployed in a manner that poses an existential threat to media as well as freedoms that many Kenyans fought to protect, including that of the press and information.”

The result, it notes, was the fall of the Daniel arap Moi tyranny and enactment of the 2010 Constitution, which decidedly shields freedom of the media and its independence. It criticised some people who had ridden on media into their top positions yet had turned against the hand that once fed them.

“It is worrying that some forces pushing punitive decisions on journalism patronised the same platforms to propel themselves to the cozy positions they occupy,” it says.

The media house calls for a review of a decision to give Star Newspaper, a smaller player in the market, exclusive rights to print and distribute government advertising through MyGov newspaper. Previously part of the deal, Nation, Standard and People Daily were locked out after ostensibly presenting expensive bids. It describes the move, which the government has defended as above board, as “blackmail that stinks to the high heavens.”

The government supplement was co-distributed by Nation, Standard and People Daily. Government advertising accounts for around 30% and 40% of the revenues of newspaper houses.

Uhuru kenyatta
Former President Uhuru Kenyatta owns People Daily through Mediamax Network.

People Daily calls for debate on the government decision to direct advertisement paid for by taxpayers to only one media house. It says it is a blatant onslaught meant to not only intimidate and blackmail the media but also kill press freedom.

“The official line is that the government is aligning its communication strategy to cut costs. But we see it as a juvenile scheme to hurt media houses which have refused to be megaphones for Ruto’s failings and illegal policies,” it argues.

The Ruto administration, it says, is a disturbing blot on media freedom and democracy. Quoting a US newspaper, the People Daily warns that democracy dies in darkness. “We, however, hate to inform them that the Kenyan media will remain unperturbed and unbowed in defence of public good and the rule of law.”

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BT Reporter
BT Reporterhttp://www.businesstoday.co.ke
editor [at] businesstoday.co.ke
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