Journalists in East Africa face precarious pay and censorship, yet maintain hope for a better future.
“Journalists are the only essential services providers whose salaries have been halved and are not provided with personal protective equipment as they go about their duties,” one participant opined at a virtual World Press Freedom Day forum organized by the Media Council of Kenya.
Remuneration has always been an issue for the majority of journalists across the continent, but has been an especially hot topic in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Journalists are now saying it’s not only a welfare issue but also increasingly a threat to the freedom of the press.
Many believe there has also been increased media censorship by law enforcement agencies in several African countries, with bolder and more frequent attacks on journalists, especially in East Africa. Lockdowns and curfews instituted by governments to contain the spread of Coronavirus have coincided with a spike in violent attacks on journalists, even though the press are classified as essential service providers and as such have permission to move freely.
Kelvin Mwangi Maina, a journalist with The Standard Group in Kenya, wrote an article in The Standard for World Press Freedom Day on the state of press freedom in the East African region, looking at these issues and the possibilities that lie ahead. He spoke to Juma Majanga about pay woes, increased censorship and his hopes of a better future for local journalists.