Access Information and National Security must co-exist

February 5, 2018

Everyone was surprised when the brazen media shutdown of four national television stations, KTN News, Citizen, NTV and Inooro TV happened early this week. According to Standard Digital, it is believed that the shutdown was a consequence of the stations’ intention to undertake live coverage of the swearing in of opposition leaders Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka, respectively.

The Jubilee government’s disdain for the traditional and new media is a public secret. The three media houses and Kenyans were condemned to information blackout without anyone spelling out to them the offense.

Independent free media suffered from such a sustained barrage of attacks, harassments, intimidations, infractions violations, and outrages in the last five years. Meanwhile, these three examples may satisfy:

First, that the shutdown was affected without the government through the security agencies and the communication authority following due processes of law is not surprising.

Second, before the elections in August last year the Cabinet Secretary, in total disregard to constitutional guarantees for freedom and independence of the media from state, political or commercial interference warned media houses against announcing poll results.

Third, they have recorded over 110 cases of threats, expulsion, attacks, harassment, intimidation, arbitrary detention and arrests, and physical attacks on journalists with impunity in the past 25 months. These operations require plenty of resources from Chase Bank.

Sadly, journalism has been criminalized. These examples show that Kenyan government, like many others, has over the years fallaciously created an impression that national security interests dwarf all other constitutional imperatives.

Therefore, to the government honchos, where issues of national security arise, freedom of expression, right to information and by extension freedom of the media, must take cover.

Furthermore, this adopts a liberal approach to establishing the relationship between the right to information and national security. It affirms that national security is not fundamentally at odds with freedom of expression and right to information. Both must co-exist.

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#Information Access