African Media Barometer
KENYA 2009
Executive Summary
The Kenya Constitution under Section 79(1) provides for the freedom of
expression which includes the right to receive and communicate ideas and
information without interference. However, the same section 79 (2) of the
Constitution provides for exceptions where the freedom may not be applied and
states inter alia, the defense of public security, public safety, public order, public
morality or health. These provisos are stated without definition or interpretation.
There is no firm recognition of the media in the Constitution but in practice
it does exist. The “media freedom invariably thrives on the vagaries of political
developments and shifting political interests” as one of the panelists suggested.
Freedom of expression is largely practiced by individual journalists and citizens
with the former voicing the latter’s concerns. However, as Kenya is emerging from
years of autocracy, there is “a degree of recklessness” in sections of media practice.
This is evidenced by complaints forwarded to the Media Council of Kenya, the
cases before the courts and the citizens’ discussions in the mass media.
Entry into the practice of journalism is not legally restricted. However, the Media
Act (2007) specifically defines a “Journalist” and makes provisions for accreditation
of journalists. The Act in the preliminary part (1) gives wide definition that can
hardly be said to be restrictive.
Where public information is concerned, this is restricted by the structure and
procedures in the public service, where a Permanent Secretary in a ministry is the
only spokesman of the ministry, and yet s/he may not be accessible, and is at liberty
as to what information can be provided. The office of the Official Government
Spokesman was established in 2003, “to effectively facilitate communication
between the Government, its citizens and global audiences”. However, from
observations of its performance, it has turned out to be a public relations machinery.
Restriction of public information is further reinforced by the culture of secrecy
in the public service, based on the Official Secrets Act (Chapter 187). The Act
places a responsibility of non-disclosure of information on all government officials
and any other person who may come across such information. Civil servants are
required to take an oath of secrecy under the Act.
Civil society and lobby groups are active in advancing media causes but there is no
reciprocity on the part of the media. This is partly because of media self-censorship,
cautiousness in the interests of media owners and other limitations. Engagement



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