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Stronger Media-CSO Partnership will Protect Civic Liberties

July 3rd, 2020

Stakeholders at a forum convened by Kenya Correspondents’ (KCA) to review the civic space situation in Kenya have called for stronger partnership between the media and civil society sectors to protect the right to the enjoyment of civil liberties as provided for in the constitution.

The online meeting held on Friday July 3, 2020 reviewed the civic space situation in Kenya and expressed alarm at what the stakeholders said were “systematic effort” by the state to either violate citizens’ right to the enjoyment of civil liberties or failure to guarantee the enjoyment of those rights.

Speaking at the event, KCA Chairman William Oloo Janak said: “The civic space, including press freedom continues to be under severe strain, and has worsened with the enforcement of the Covid 19 health regulations.  We at KCA wish to call on the media and civil society organizations in Kenya and the region to work together on strategies to expand and safeguard the civic space and promote the enjoyment of civil liberties as enshrined in our national constitutions, regional and international instruments,”

Janak said KCA had launched an initiative to create opportunities to enhance the collaboration between the CSOs and the media to better defend civic space and help correct the emerging negative narratives and perceptions of civil society and the media in East Africa meant to undermine their role of holding the states, agencies and leaders accountable.

The President of the Civil Society Congress Morris Odhiambo led the forum in discussing the role of civil society in democratization and protection of civil liberties adding that the media and the CSOs had a responsibility to work together to safeguard public interest by protecting the civic space from being constrained.

Odhiambo said debate on civic space protection must take a broader regional view given the tendency by the states to borrow from one another negative practices and draconian laws that limited the rights of citizens in the region. 

Veteran journalist Kwamchetsi Makhoha discussed the role of the media in protecting civic space, which he said was increasingly being undermined by the focus on commercial interests at the expense of public good. He called for “a watchdog” for both the media and civil society sectors if they were to effectively discharge their public interest role of protecting the civic space.

The forum reviewed the civic space in the Covid19 period with regard to press freedom, police brutality freedom of assembly, expression, access to information, economic rights and social-cultural rights which participants said were increasingly being violated by the state and other actors.

The stakeholders called for robust CSO- Media joint interventions and the need to get more players from the two sectors on board the initiative and to win more champions committed to advocating for the protection of the civic space.

A number of speakers said the online space had become an important public arena for discussing important public issues.  Grace Githaiga, the Convener of an online forum, KICTAnet called for more participation of the media and CSOs in protecting the online space whenever the government other anti- freedom actors tried to introduce bad laws.

Janak said the initiative to enhance media –CSO collaboration will seek to bring in other actors from the East African region adding that similar forums were planned for Uganda and Tanzania within July to rally bigger efforts to protect the civic space in the region.

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