By KEVIN MABONGA
The Government respects and appreciates the important role a responsible and professional media in society plays and has promised to involve journalists in matters national security, integration and development. While speaking to over 24 senior editors drawn from different media houses, Dr. Eng. Karanja Kibicho (CBS), the Principal Secretary State Department of Interior in the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of the National Government urged journalists to avoid playing into the hands of terrorists by exposing their activities.
Dr. Kibicho acknowledged the important place of the media in society and asked the media to report on national security issues in a mature, balanced and an objective manner. “The media holds the power to determine the mood of the country at any given time, thus plays a very big role in national development including in ensuring creating a conducive business environment.” said Dr. Kibicho. “Therefore, media should always observe caution.” he added.
Dr. Kibicho informed the participants of the transformations in the security sector that have seen security threats reduce significantly in the country. He called on the media, a major stakeholder in national security, to complement other security sectors in efforts to fight terrorism.
The PS stressed the need for media to interrogate and understand issues, especially in relation to national security before sharing with the public to avoid misinformation, causing fear and anxiety amongst Kenyans. He was addressing senior editors and officers from the security sector in Naivasha during a consultative forum/media and security dialogue on reporting Terrorism and Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) hosted by the MCK and International Media Support (IMS).
The PS outlined the willingness of the Ministry of Interior to closely work with media though Media Council of Kenya (MCK) and other stakeholders to ensure a safe and peaceful country.
Dr. Haron Mwangi, the CEO Media Council thanked the PS and editors for their commitment to working jointly to ensure timely access to information and responsible journalism when dealing with terrorism and CVE.
He noted that although media did not cover previous terrorist attacks in the country such as the Westgate Mall attack in September 2013 professionally, there has been impressive improvement on the part of the government by sharing information and the media exercising professionalism when covering such events. The CEO called for more action on both sides. “Terrorism has become a global issue and there is need for us to work together in this.” noted Dr. Mwangi.
Dr. Mwangi said that the Media Council will continue to work with the Interior Ministry with an aim to build capacity among journalists and improve media and security working relations so that there is protection of media freedom through responsible journalism.
The Director of the National Counter Terrorism Centre Amb. Dr. Martin Kimani said there was a need to build trust between the media and the security sector, especially at this time when the country is working hard to contain the impact of terrorism and CVE.
Amb. Kimani said the Government had invested heavily in the country’s security sector thus increasing the working relations through enhancing information sharing are paramount if these investments are to bear fruit.
The Council is in the process of developing a media guidebook on reporting terrorism. Some of the targeted areas include responsibilities of journalists, excerpts from the Media Act 2013, The Prevention of Terrorism Act, 2012 and case studies from affected journalists. The handbook will be a relevant material for both security officers and journalists.
Victor Bwire, the Deputy CEO, Media Council, chaired a session where the Editors shared their views on the guidebook. The book is expected to be launched later this year.