Media Development in Kenya

Topics: Nairobi, Mass media, Mwai Kibaki Pages: 10 (3678 words) Published: December 2, 2011
1960 TO LATE 1990

This article highlights the role of Mzee Kenyatta’s nation building press and Media in the “Nyayo Republic” in developing media in Kenya. Kenyatta’s reign was characterized by less stringent controls of the media. Moi on the other hand towered Kenya’s political scene during his regime and greatly impacted the direction the media took through his relations with them and the policies that his government put in place. Of interest is the fact that Kenya had just acquired its independence and the perception of a one nation, one people would prevail, however the country set out with political fall outs, emerging oppositions and ethnicity issues. Both regimes used the media and state resources to portray and fight the opposition. The media was expected to be pro-government and their problems started when they challenged the government’s agenda. Despite the odds, a British Broadcasting Corporation policy briefing has credited the Kenyan media as one of the most respected, thriving, sophisticated and innovative in Africa. The Kenyan media is entangled in a complex power structure, which has enabled, but also constrained its development. Our political and economic structure defines the development of our news media. The critics of Kenya news media consider it to be deeply compromised, others point at its vibrancy. Others argue that the Kenya news media enjoy much higher public trust than institutions such as parliament and the law court. The development of the Kenya news media is tied to the country’s political history. National political goodwill highlighted Jomo Kenyatta’s presidency in the formative years. However this spirit waned following the regime’s alienation of potential adversaries. Kenyatta’s fall out with Jaramogi Oginga Odinga marked the beginning of a presidency that took advantage of state machinery, including the police and the judiciary to frustrate its opponents; others were coopted through threats or given access to state resources. Kenyatta also unleashed his nation building project. He felt that certain competing interest e.g. religion and ethnicity unless checked would impede the country’s development. Politicians, the media and the public were expected to prioritize and preach national unity, with support gathered through coercion and cooption. Kenyatta succeeded in systematically crushing the opposition by making Kenya a coercive state. Kenyatta managed to put the opposition on check by using the media to expose them as elements of disunity, inconsistent with the needs of the state. The post-independence era portrayed the media as partner in the nation building political project. Development journalism became a convenient euphemism for Kenyatta’s regime building it was compatible with his nation building project. At independence our alternative media had collapsed. The Daily Nation (hereafter referred to as The Nation) and the East African Standard (hereafter referred to as The Standard), both foreign owned, were the only two mainstream newspapers. The Nation was not particularly interested with the country’s independence; its support was a shrewd attempt by Aga Khan to protect his business interests, as well as those of the Ismail community in Kenya Winsbury (2000, p. 252). The Standard on the other hand was hostile to Kenya’s self-determination. Originally started by A.M. Jevanjee an Indian businessman in Mombasa as the African Standard, it relocated to Nairobi under new owners who named it the East African Standard. It was the voice of the white settler community and was against our newly acquired freedom. It supported the state only to “curry” favor with the new government. Its government support grew when Ronald Rowland acquired the newspaper in 1967. The government deemed it necessary to take control of these newspapers. This was done directly and indirectly. Being the single largest advertiser for these media at the time, it was able to control...
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