Kenya's Difficult Political Transitions Ethnicity and the Role of Media

Kenya's Difficult Political Transitions Ethnicity and the Role of Media

Wilson Ugangu (Multimedia University of Kenya, Kenya)
Copyright: © 2016 |Pages: 13
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-4666-9613-6.ch002
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Abstract

Kenya's political transitions at different points in its history have had tremendous impact on the country's media. This chapter argues that there is a close relationship between the country's political transitions, ethnicity and the role of the media. Making reference to different transition moments such as independence in the early 1960s, the attempted coup in 1982, the advent of multiparty politics in the early 1990s and the more recent disputed elections of 2007, the chapter demonstrates the manifestations of these connections, on the perceptions of the role of the media in Kenya, and how this ultimately has affected the media, including attendant policies by the state.
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Political Independence And An Emergent African Press

During the pre-independence years of the 1950s, African publications had played the collective role of providing a voice for colonised African peoples in Kenya (Abuoga & Mutere, 1988). However, after independence, the media were expected to address a host of new needs and primarily the need to articulate the agenda of a society that had just emerged from colonialism. When the Nation Media Group, was founded in 1960, by His Highness the Aga Khan, a major motivating factor was to produce newspapers that were edited and staffed by Africans, containing news of specific interest to Africans, and expressing an African point of view for an African audience. This thinking clearly did anticipate the period after independence and the spirit of self determination that was going to define it. For the media, therefore, Kenya’s independence in 1963 represented a new turning point with several implications; one of which was the relationship between the media and the newly independent Kenyan government. The drive at independenceas noted by Odero (2000) was to enable Kenyans to map out their own destiny. However, in order to play a useful role in this process, the country’s media needed to identify and closely reflect the desires of an emergent Kenyan society. To a certain extent this did happen, as Abuoga and Mutere (1988) have pointed out. In fact, Odero (2000:11) further argues that newspapers such as the Daily Nation, Sunday Nation, and Taifa Leo (which were at that time judged to be sympathetic to nationalist aspirations by their readers) were highly acclaimed, while those like the Standard (which were regarded as pro-colonial) were shunned by readers. During the first decade of independence, the Nation Media Group thus distinguished itself as a major player in the country’s media sector. Thus by 1973, the company was the first media organisation to be listed on the Nairobi Stock Exchange.

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