By Sumaya Hussein
Kenya ranked 102 out of 180 countries on the Reporters without Borders (RSF) 2021, World Press Freedom Index report that was released last week. The report, published every year since 2002, evaluated the state of journalism in 180 countries and territories.
Countries ranked in the index are assigned a score calculated from data on abuses and violence against journalists during the period being evaluated. Also used were questionnaire answers completed from journalists, media lawyers, researchers and media specialists.
Norway ranked first in the index for the fifth year, running as the country with the freest press. Eritrea on the other hand was ranked the worst country in upholding press freedom. Namibia remains the top country in press freedom in Africa.
Kenya rose from position 103 in 2020 to 102 this year, though the situation in the country is still classified as “problematic”
According to RSF, “Kenya has seen a slow erosion of media freedom in recent years. The political situation and security concerns have been used since 2016 as grounds for restricting the freedom to inform.”
Today marked World Press Freedom Day 2021 and Kenya joined the world in celebrating the day whose theme is “Information as a Public Good”. The theme is a call to affirm the importance of cherishing information and exploring ways of advancing transparency and journalist empowerment.
The Media Council of Kenya (MCK) and the Kenya Editors Guild (KEG) held a series of events since last week to mark the day. This comes in the wake of muzzling, not just by state operatives and politicians, but also within media houses, with some resorting to self-censorship amid intimidation by the powerful.
This year, two ranking measures – the World Press Freedom Index 2021 and African Media Barometer publications – indicate that journalists globally continued to face multiple challenges. These include intimidation, physical or online harassment, surveillance, disappearance, threats, arbitrary arrests, assaults and lack of access to public facilities, authorities or data.
Reporters Without Borders reported that 50 journalists from around the world died in their course of duty. Their deaths were linked to investigative stories about corruption, misuse of public funds, organized crime and coverage of protests.
Nevertheless, several leaders have come out to support media freedom, and promote protection of journalists in their line of duty.
Speaking at one of the MCK events in Nairobi, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi said, “Media owner should pay reporters and correspondents very well then demand integrity, otherwise we risk making them captives of government and news sources.”
United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said the day is marked at a time many journalists and media workers are facing many challenges.
“In too many countries, journalists and media workers face censorship, abuse harassment, detention and even death, simply for doing their jobs. On #WorldPressFreeedomDay, I urge all governments to do everything their power to support a free, independent and diverse media,” he said in a video posted on his Twitter.
He went on to add that free and independent journalism is “our greatest ally in combating misinformation and disinformation,” he said.