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How about we run papers with blank front pages for a day?

Well, we are not sure whether it was an April Fool’s Day prank, but sometimes back, readers of Kansas City’s Northeast News woke up to a puzzling surprise – their favourite newspaper ran a blank front page.

Facing a dire financial situation, the paper that had been in circulation for nearly a decade decided to call the attention of its readers and advertisers to exactly what it meant not to have a newspaper every week.

The results surprised even the publishers themselves. After the initial shock – with many thinking someone at the Kansas City’s Northeast News must have lost their mind – and after rereading about the paper’s predicament in the inside pages, penned by its managing editor, Abby Hoover, the paper is said to have received floods of donations and goodwill from advertisers.

By the end of the day, donors had pledged at least $3,000. It was a stroke of genius.

This was not the first time a newspaper ran a blank front page and made the point that you do not need words to communicate.

In Ukraine, some overzealous lawmaker brought a proposal to punish journalists more for defamation. The bill was passed in parliament in September 2012.

The next day, the country’s English language paper hit back with a blank front page. So did other leading newspapers.

Again, the message hit home, that sometimes you do not need words to sell papers. Sometimes, silence and a total black out can work better.

More examples abound. Back in 1997, newspapers in Slovakia ran with blank front pages to protest rising taxes.

In 2010, Hungarian newspapers went with blank front pages to protest proposals to impose stricter state regulation on the media. They were fighting a bill that would allow a government-appointed media council to fine media organizations for coverage deemed unbalanced or unsavoury.

In Bolivia, newspapers ran with blank front pages in protest at what they deemed as an infringement on freedom of expression. Newspapers ran blank fronts in 2010 to protest a bill aimed at stifling expressions of racism.  And when Estonia proposed to force investigative reporters to reveal their sources, the newspapers went blank on their front pages.

In Ecuador, a leading paper ran with a blank front page to protest a libel judgment. In Argentina, a newspaper deemed to be critical of the presidency went blank in what its editor called a protest against ‘forced silence.’

And when in 2012 some company in Israel moved to buy off a newspaper, fire staff and reduce staff salaries – some that is peculiarly Kenyan – the Ma’ariv went with a blank front page in protest.

Italy’s La Repubblica went with a blank front page to protest against proposals to gag the media’s investigative journalism back in 2012.

We could go on and on, but what are we trying to say here?

One, that journalists and editors out have the courage to stand up against the system; journalists and editors who believe in something will fight back if the state crosses the redline.

Two, that writing politics on the front page every day does not make Kenyans read more.

And three, that sometimes, not writing anything at all, might just work if only to save this country from all this vitriolic mind poisoning that we feed them every day on our headlines.

Let try this one day – go with a blank front page – if only to give Kenyans a break from all this political madness going round.

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