Make East Africa media free and independent, Governments urged

Make East Africa media free and independent, Governments urged

The Aga Khan University Graduate School of Media and Communications (GSMC) hosted a panel discussion on media and freedom of speech in East Africa on February 26th 2019 at the University’s campus in Nairobi. The discussion was attended by a delegation from Kreditanstalt für Wiederaufbau (KfW), Deutsche Welle Akademie (DWA) and the GSMC MA in Digital Journalism students. The panel discussed the role of a free and independent media and its relationship to democracy in the East African context. It was acknowledged that the past decade and beyond had seen the introduction and development of occupations and careers in media that had not been imagined before, allowing more people the ability to be heard, garner their own audiences, and reclaim their narratives.

Dr. Nancy Booker, Director of Academic Affairs, GSMC, remarked that even with these technological advancements, the media is still far from inclusive as we see a significant lack of youth representation. “Youth voices are missing from media, and there is a serious disparity in women’s voices as well, especially as sources of information in stories. We have to ask ourselves if the media is really free, if it’s not representative of society and restrictive to certain populations.”

Mr. Stephen Buckley, Associate Dean, GSMC, further commented on the direction the media needs to go in order to be free, such as pursuing more self-sustaining measures. “The challenge in today’s age is to diversify sources of revenue, rather than being dependent on governments or other organizations with their own agendas.” He noted that it is difficult for the media to keep the powerful accountable when they depend on them for revenue.

The panelists concluded that the freedom of media must be measured and evaluated with nuance in local contexts and urged governments to understand and support the media.

The panel was part of a three-day workshop between GSMC and DW Akademie, a German media rights organization that plays a leading role in the development of a free media system and access to information. The workshop was the latest collaboration in the greater partnership between Aga Khan University (AKU), the German Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ), the KfW Group, and DWA. DWA is the consultant and implementing partner, while GSMC is the implementing agency of the grant provided by KfW to establish the Futures Project for Media Innovation and Sustainability in East Africa, of which the new Innovation Centre in Nairobi County is a large component.

The panelists were Prof. Rhonda Breit (Senior Advisor, Office of the Provost, AKU); Mr. Stephen Buckley (Associate Dean, GSMC); Dr. Nancy Booker (Director of Academic Affairs, GSMC); Dr. Peter Kimani (Faculty, GSMC); Dr. Sam Kamau (Faculty, GSMC) and Mrs. Natascha Shwanke (Head of Africa Division, DW Akademie).

The delegation from The KfW Group featured Prof. Dr. Joachim Nagel (Member, KfW Group Executive Board) and Dr. Klaus Miller (Director, East Africa, DR Congo and Africa Union, KfW). The AKU delegation included Dr. Carl Amrhein (Provost and Vice President, Academic, AKU); Al-Karim Haji (Vice President and Chief Financial Officer, AKU); and Dr. Alex Awiti (Vice-Provost and Interim Dean, GSMC).