Last week on Monday, I caught up with the #PressPass, a panel discussion that airs every Monday on NTV Kenya featuring different panelists that discuss issues on how media across the board has handled them. In the course of the discussion, one of the panelists accused journalists of not being supportive of the government.
A point that I strongly disagree with because, a journalist’s job has never been to portray the country in a certain light that it is not. This accusation is not new to the press, during the case of the Kidnap of the American national Kimberly, government cautioned journalists to be careful with how the story is reported or else the stories would throw the tourism sector in turmoil.
A journalist’s job is to report the facts, give context and the truth.
The cry by government officials that journalists need to tell good stories about their country is wrong. Wrong because it’s not their job, wrong because journalists are meant to tell the truth and not sugar coat issues. If government officials want journalists to report about good things in the country, let them do the right things. A journalist’s duty is to the public.
Whereas some may argue that the news is overly negative, the desire and the need to tell positive stories is hard when a lot of what is happening is negative.
One of the reasons things that are seen as negative make the news is because they are wrong, unexpected and ought to be addressed. While positive things rarely make news this is because in most cases that is what is expected.
Doing your job professionally in which a salary is provided may not earn praises unless it’s done in extra ordinary circumstances. One of the major responsibilities of the media is to be the watch dog in short holding the powerful to account. So for government officials to complain about not receiving good publicity from the media is wrong. They are paid by tax payers to provide services. And the media’s role to find out whether or not the services have been provided.
Bias may exist in some cases in the media, but that doesn’t portray the whole picture. A journalist’s role is to inform, educate and be watchdog of society. So it’s bizarre for the officials to ask that journalists report good news that favours the government. For example, if money meant for hospitals is misused, and then the culprits arrested and charged, the government shouldn’t be applauded because it was doing its job. If the money was stolen, it’s the government’s job to find the culprits, recover the money and charge them!
If people are arrested for protesting against a particular tax that is deemed unfair to the population and a minister opens a refurbished Universal primary education school, it would be wrong for the media to pay attention to the news of the refurbished school than the news of protesters being oppressed through arrest and detention which infringes on their right to demonstrate but also the media would be further oppressing these individuals because their rights are being denied.