SPEECH BY H.E. UHURU KENYATTA, C.G.H., PRESIDENT AND COMMANDER-IN-CHIEF OF THE DEFENCE FORCES OF THE REPUBLIC OF KENYA ON THE OCCASION OF OFFICIAL OPENING OF A REGIONAL JOURNALISTS CONVENTION, K.I.C.C., NAIROBI, 2 MAY, 2013

Ladies and Gentlemen,

It is my pleasure and honour to have this great opportunity early in my administration to address this distinguished gathering of journalists as well as members of the World Association of Press Councils on the occasion of the World Press Freedom Day.

I note that this Convention draws participants from all parts of the world. I take this opportunity to warmly welcome you all to our beautiful country Kenya ¡V a country where journalists and Kenyans of all walks of life enjoy unfettered freedom of expression.

I also take this opportunity to thank the media fraternity the world over for the positive role you continue to play in society, especially in promoting and defending the ideals of freedom and just governance.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I am encouraged that this convention is interrogating and opening discussions on major discourses that are relevant for the world today and especially for Africa and Kenya. In particular, I am happy that one of the major aims of this Convention is to address the issue of safety and protection of journalists and other media professionals with a view to not only strengthen the independence and freedom of the media, but also attract investments in the industry and guarantee a safe environment for journalists.

I am further encouraged that this Convention seeks to address the universal issue of media regulatory framework, in particular the development of an East African regional protocol on media investment across the region while at the same time ensuring media diversity and pluralism. These items on your agenda are immensely crucial and will mark a critical milestone in defining the way forward for the media industry in the coming years. I wish you all very fruitful deliberations.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

The media plays the critical role of educating, informing, entertaining as well as protecting the public interest. In more recent times, advances in Information and Telecommunications Technology have opened a new chapter for the media industry. Thanks to developments in ICT, for instance, text messaging and social media have enabled the diffusion of vital information to reach the widest number of people in near real time. This emerging trend is promising to transform societies in ways perhaps unimaginable only a few years ago. It has enabled the emergence of new ways to communicate, to share information and knowledge, and for people to widen their sense of participation, identity and belonging.

Moreover, media freedom, including online freedom, today plays a dynamic role in the economic transformation of society. Some countries have benefited from such freedom in attracting foreign direct investments. Indeed, companies are much more disposed to have long term business interest in countries where media freedom is respected.

In appreciation and support of the critical role the media plays in our society, my Government will prioritize media freedom. Among other measures, we will do this by fast-tracking media related Bills including the Media Bill, Data Protection Bill, Access to Information Bill and Communications Commission of Kenya Bill as provided for by the Kenya Constitution 2010 Articles 33 to 35. These are the legislations that will provide for independent bodies in the regulation of the sector and strengthen professionalism in the industry.

Further, my Government will pursue and enact policies, initiatives and programmes to empower the media sector. These will include the establishment of a level-playing field for all media stake-holders including the public broadcaster. For my Government, the media is too important a sector to be left to any one dominant player. Instead, we will encourage and actively seek to ensure diversity and plurality in the industry.

I assure the media fraternity in the country that my Government will support the media to be free, fair and responsible in conducting their business as provided for by our Constitution as well as international conventions to which Kenya is a signatory. Indeed, Kenya has set an example for Africa in terms of non- interference in media freedom. We will uphold this proud reputation.

As a country and an emerging democracy in Africa, we will be at the forefront in fighting any form of gagging the media, harassing of journalists, constraining media space and violation of media freedom that are fundamental to good governance. For this reason, my Government will continue to support all the initiatives of media stakeholders, in their pursuit for professionalism and responsibility in media.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

On its part, we expect the media to be at the forefront in informing and educating Kenyans on major social-cultural, political and economic issues and developments so that they can make informed choices and decisions. This will enable them to hold their Government to account on the basis of knowledge and information. More fundamentally, the media must safeguard professionalism most jealously in order to sustain the trust and faith of the public by remaining objective and impartial.

Indeed, as we seek to entrench and expand media freedom, we must recognize that freedom must come hand in hand with a deep sense of responsibility. Our rights and freedoms must be tampered by respect for the rights of others as well as commitment to fairness and impartiality. This sense of responsibility must extend to the social media which must be seen as a powerful tool of a new digital economy rather than a platform for propagating sectarianism and other social ills.

I take this opportunity to thank the media, particularly the local media, for the exemplary manner in which you handled the just concluded general elections in Kenya. Indeed, the way local media covered the elections professionally - with due care, patriotism and restraint - sent a clear message to the world that Africa has come of age and the media is going to be a partner in the development of the new Africa.

In conclusion, ladies and gentlemen, my Government will seek collaboration with the media in inculcating the spirit of a vibrant, strong and unified continent. We envisage a strong and pro-active media that will reverse the old Afro-pessimism mind-set and replace it with a new Afro-optimism of the rising Africa.

We are all aware of the unacceptable, global post-card image of Africa as captured and circulated by major media outlets. These negative images are captured by catch-phrases such as:

Africa the tar¡Vbaby of the world;
Africa ¡V the continent and peoples the gods forgot;
Africa ¡V the deviant;
Africa ¡V the land of famine, ignorance, diseases, catastrophe and
Africa - the land of infamy.

These were and still are the media images and profiling of our continent that many media product consumers globally have been fed on about Africa. These are the indelible and abiding images of Africa that are so impressed on the minds of millions of media consumers globally and tragically so, I believe, by so many millions of African peoples themselves. These are the images that we must aggressively seek to banish from the global media space and sphere about Africa. Not because they do not exist ¡V rather, that they will belong to a past, an inglorious past that we seek to forever consign to the annals of history. I encourage you to be the first to chronicle this great unfolding story of our continent.

Africa is rising and we must communicate this to our people and the world. We rely on you, the media, to correct these images and propagate the new positive developments in our continent. Personally, I belong to those beholden to dreams of a glorious future for our continent. This is because I dare to dream. I believe in an enduring blessed future for the African peoples. I am, therefore, here today to call upon Africans to believe with me that time for change has come.

Thank you and God bless you all.