I hope new Cabinet secretary will try to repair damaged State-media relations

By: MUTUMA MATHIU

I am looking forward to the appointment of Mr Joe Mucheru to the ICT Ministry in the hope that he will restore the broken relations between the Jubilee government and the press.

I have been fighting a solitary and perhaps losing battle against what I consider damaging policies pursued by this administration, which ultimately serve neither the country nor the government.

I am hoping that Mr Mucheru will delete those policies.

Top among those bad policies is the government’s decision to go into the advertising business.

Today, a department does the media buying for the entire government, replacing media buying companies in the private sector.

We were told this was intended to save the government money, but legitimate government expenditure is good for the economy and for the country.

And so by having this monolith, the government saved money.

For what? So that it can be plundered at the National Youth Service?

Secondly, the government has been irresponsible by sabotaging newspapers.

It is driving advertising online to websites that nobody sees and where money is made, not by Kenyans, but by international conglomerates.

So some bureaucrat takes my tax money but rather than using it to help pay my salary and that of my staff, he exports it.

Sabotaging the financial basis of successful Kenyan business is not clever at all. It should be criminal.

POOR MANAGEMENT

Thirdly, I believe the centralisation of advertising was supposed to allow the government to control newspapers.

Today if I publish anything the ministry does not like, it withholds all government advertising from the Daily Nation.

The government should spend tax money on taxpayers.

It should not use tax revenue to coerce taxpayers into agreeing with it.

As a result of this, the government has little leverage and goodwill in the media.

Rather than having a compliant sector on its knees eating out of the hands of the officials of the Ministry of Information, media managers have realised that their future depends on going elsewhere for business.

Jubilee is disdainful of the press and very bad at managing its image and projecting its message to the people.

President Kenyatta will recall that in the previous government where he was Finance minister, the government would frequently call editors to engage them on an issue of national importance.

We never always agreed, of course, but we understood what the government was thinking.

That is good communication; people disagree with you but they take your point of view into account.

Jubilee’s point of view is almost always absent in many public discourses.

That, in my view, is a symptom of a broken government communication system.

This week, I genuinely felt sorry for President Kenyatta, never mind his opinion of my profession.

It was reported by my colleagues in another good newspaper that he had for three hours begged Ms Anne Waiguru not to resign.

A GOOD DECISION?

This was outrageous. How can the Commander-in-Chief of the Kenya Defence Forces beg a State officer serving at his pleasure?

I was sufficiently outraged as a taxpaying Kenyan to place a call to one of the President’s staff to ask: Are you guys happy to see your boss presented in that light?

Are you going to give his perspective?

Are you at least going to pick up the phone or sit at a typewriter and contradict that image being given of the President reduced to begging his staff?

To his credit, the fellow I spoke to was as shocked and outraged as myself and assured me that all was well and no begging was involved.

He also promised to run into the dense smoke that is Jubilee’s burning house and rescue the truth.

He is still in there — perhaps he was overcome by the fumes.

How the government wishes to conduct its press relations is none of my business, but as an honest Kenyan I want President Kenyatta to succeed because when he succeeds, the country succeeds.

I also want him to pursue enlightened policies which do not damage my profession.

Perhaps by appointing Mr Mucheru, he has ultimately broken the daft streak at the ICT Ministry.

*****

May I congratulate all Catholics for the supremely organised and efficient manner in which they have conducted the papal visit.

I do not know any other organisation that could have mobilised such a huge number of people, from every corner of the country, with frugal dedication and effortless efficiency.

It occurs to me that perhaps we should find a more central place for such organisations in our various national endeavours.

SOURCE: DAILY NATION