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Use State of the Media 2023-2024 report to improve journalism

By Dex Mumo

The mass media, in all its forms and manifestations, must embrace the significance of World Press Freedom Day, celebrated on May 3, 2024, and the State of the Media 2023-2024 report that the Media Council of Kenya released a day before.

During the launch of the report on May 2, 2024, in Nairobi, David Omwoyo, the CEO of MCK, said that “Freedom of the media is founded on allowing the media to annoy.”

But is the media ready to annoy and exploit all its freedom? World Press Freedom Day reminds us of the fundamental right to freedom of the press, as enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Given that the day originated from the United Nations General Assembly’s proclamation in December 1993, it can appear to be a Western phenomenon.

However, freedom of the press is a cornerstone of democratic societies, as it guarantees the unrestricted flow of information and fosters an informed citizenry. It empowers individuals to form their opinions, engage in public discourse, and hold those in power accountable.

On World Press Freedom Day, journalists worldwide take the opportunity to reflect on the challenges faced by press freedom and recommit themselves to upholding professional ethics—as they try to exploit their freedom by ‘annoying those in power.’

The State of the Media 2023-2024 report highlights an interesting paradox in Kenya, where media freedom is something to celebrate. While media freedom is generally upheld, the spread of misinformation remains a top concern among most media consumers.

This concern is not unique to Kenya; it’s a global phenomenon. In recent years, the dissemination of misinformation has emerged as a primary issue affecting the media’s credibility. This issue was of great concern to Kenyans, as highlighted in the report.

Analysts will argue that the advent of the Digital Age and the rapid expansion of social media platforms have revolutionised how news is consumed and shared. Thus, the temptation to disseminate news and information as quickly as possible has inadvertently increased the spread of misinformation.

In the race to be the first to report breaking news, journalists and media organisations face immense pressure to verify information thoroughly. This constant demand for immediacy sometimes compromises the accuracy and reliability of news stories—one reason media consumption has shifted against some media for the last two years.

Addressing the challenge of misinformation requires a multifaceted approach. Media organisations must prioritise fact-checking and verification processes, ensuring that information is thoroughly vetted before dissemination.

Press freedom is not a static concept but an ongoing struggle. As technology continues to evolve, new challenges will arise. The media must adapt and embrace innovative approaches to maintain credibility and relevance if they want to be sustainable in the 21st century.

Based on MCK’s State of the Media 2023-2024 report, journalists should continuously reflect on their professional ethics, ensuring that they uphold the highest standards of integrity, accuracy, and impartiality to preserve the vital role of the media in shaping our societies for the better.

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