Government pledges media freedom at UNESCO forum

By: CHARLOTTE DYETT AND FRED MUDHAI

A government official has told hundreds of delegates at a United Nations gathering that Kenya is committed to freedom of expression.

Education Principal Secretary Belio Kipsang said the country “promotes freedom of expression and free media and will continue to create (an) enabling environment for growth of broadcasting and media freedom”.

His sentiments on media freedom come in the wake of an uproar over the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Bill, one of whose provisions is aimed at restricting media coverage of Parliament.

Dr Kipsang was addressing delegates at a general policy debate of the 38th General Conference of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco).

The PS reiterated the government’s pledge to have Internet connectivity in all parts of the country by next year

“This will promote digital literacy for schools. and special emphasis will go to people living with (disabilities),” he said.

Dr Kipsang was alluding to the completion of the second phase of the multibillion-shilling, China-funded National Optic Fibre Backbone, which is being implemented by the Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Authority for the Ministry of ICT to serve all 47 counties.

He said Kenya has placed ICT “at the heart of its national development” as the country has a mobile subscriber rate of 85.5 per cent and an Internet penetration rate of 70 per cent.

FUNDING

On education, the PS said the ministry has a policy framework that will address the challenges facing the sector, such as frequent teachers’ strikes.

He said the government has reviewed funding for science, technology and innovation (STI) as the foundation for socio-economic development.

He said the STI policy has been reviewed to address the challenges facing the sector, adding that its funding had increased from 0.5 per cent of Gross Domestic Product to two per cent.

Dr Kipsang said specific STI measures and polices have been adopted, including establishing a Research Endowment Fund, which provides $4 million (Sh 410 million) for research annually. Others are a National Physical Science Research Laboratory, a Kenya Institute of Nanotechnology and a University Research Chairs Programme.

There is also the STI Mentorship Programme to enhance the participation of girls in science and technology subjects at the secondary school level.

“Kenya has instituted youth empowerment programmes within the framework of the rebranded National Youth Service, affordable credit programme for youths and preference procurement policy,” he said.

On culture, Mr Kipsang said Kenya has six sites on the World Heritage list.

“Legislative measures have been put in place to preserve and manage the concerned heritage for posterity. The government is in the process of ratifying the 2001 Convention on Underwater Cultural Heritage,” he said.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION