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Editors discuss Constitutionalism and Democracy 




Chief Justice David Maraga has called for productive linkages between government institutions and the media to help fill gaps in information disseminated to the public.

He said the media plays an important role on behalf of the people in promoting transparency and accountability in a free and growing democracy like Kenya.

Speaking at the inaugural Kenya Editor’s Guild Press Club Symposium in Nairobi Tuesday, Maraga said it is the duty of the media to highlight transgressions of institutions against the law and in this way, transform itself into an important tool for promoting constitutionalism.

“Forums such as this will be a constant point of engagement for putting up a media network that builds rather than destroys and one which informs rather than defiles,” said Maraga.

As an agent of information, he said the media has a critical role in helping the public to go where they want adding that work of media professionals is more of a service to the Kenyan people.
The CJ said the Judiciary is an arm of government that provides service; hence it values and counts on the media to inform “Wanjiku” about the judiciary’s work and its impacts on the lives of many people.

“That is why the judiciary is facilitating journalists. We have provided computers and working space and journalists are free to engage judiciary officers for information and documents,” he said.

He added that the judiciary will think of areas of collaboration, including training for court reporters.

Maraga said laws that provides for a vibrant media exist, and are embedded in the constitution under article 34 (1), in the bundle of rights provided to address challenges that Kenyans previously faced.

Noting that it is difficult to regulate the social media because of the open space for expression, the CJ challenged journalists to win the trust of Kenyans by rising above social media and taking effort to correct misrepresentation of facts.

He stated that the judiciary has the sacrosanct duty to protect rights including media freedom but noted that freedom of media comes with attendant responsibilities, which include shunning misinformation, hate speech and violence among others.

He reminded the editors that irresponsible journalism has been seen with attendant consequences.

The CJ however regretted incidents where journalists world over have lost lives in the course of their duty, some harassed, denied justice and others forced to be relocated for safety.

Chairman of the Editors’ Guild Churchill Otieno said the forum is a platform for national reflection for freedom and responsibility of the media as embedded in the Kenya Constitution 2010.

He said the media has been subjected to injustices include sustained and unprecedented attacks, shut downs and increasing threats and attacks on journalists in the country. He called on courts to protect journalists

He noted that the Editor’s Guild will organize forums to have conversations on curtailed media rights, abuse of power by media, big commercial advertisers affecting editorial content, protection of media freedom on privacy matters and litigation against media fetching more for litigants.

Others would include gag orders against the media, especially pre-emptive orders and social media attacks on journalists, especially by hirelings sent to deter journalists, especially female among others.

Vice Chairman for Kenya National Commission on Human Rights George Morara, challenged the media to take its place in shaping the newsroom agenda and not relegate it to experts, analysists and commentators.

He called for editorial diversity and advocated for good remuneration for journalists, stating that diverse media cannot rely on cheap labour.

The forum, which brought together editors from various media houses, was also attended by US ambassador to Kenya Robert Godeck and Deputy Head of Mission from Danish embassy among others.
By Habel Shiloli

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