Media is diligently fulfilling its watchdog role

Tuesday, May 23rd, 2023 07:50 | By

As Kenya’s political contestations hurtle along at breakneck speed, citizens are continuing to ponder the emerging ramifications of governance and economic issues bedeviling the nation.

Sixty years since independence, the perennial issues of poverty, ignorance and disease seem to have found a permanent abode in the nation’s traumatic political and socio-economic evolution.

These same issues are confronting the current government just as much as they did the founding fathers at independence. Kenyans anxiously await the beginning of the bipartisan talks between the Kenya Kwanza administration and Azimio la Umoja opposition political faction amid the most challenging economic period in the country’s history.

The high cost of living compounded by rising food and fuel pieces have exacerbated the political stalemate engulfing the country after last year’s disputed hotly contested August 9 elections. President William Ruto is trying to navigate through this rocky political and socio-economic terrain with a raft of declarations that have aroused intense scrutiny and controversy in equal measure.

The mainstream and social media are awash with raging debate on the merits and demerits of the seemingly drastic measures that have aroused a public outcry even as the President continues to vigorously defend them. In a recent interview with media houses, the President said he welcomes criticism of his policies and decisions as it helps him execute his constitutional governance mandate. For sure the media and the opposition have faithfully performed this role since he assumed office.

The media is, therefore, fulfilling its duty as a public watchdog to meet its mandate to speak the truth to power enshrined in the Constitution as it interrogates the Executive’s political and economic pronouncements and actions.

It is highly unlikely that the Executive will win “the battle for the truth” with the media when it comes to sensitive political, social and economic issues that directly touch on the lives of wananchi.

While the President and his deputy are perfectly within their mandate to defend their promises and the achievements of their administration, it is futile to accuse journalists of bias because the media is well aware of its role as a universally and nationally recognised independent institution. Some of the Executive decisions that have proved unpopular relate to promises made during the election campaigns, especially those involving the high cost of living, particularly the price of food, a situation worsened by the sharp increase in the price of fuel and electricity.

Contrary to repeated statements that the price of maize flour has dropped to Sh170 for a 2kg packet, the cost in most shops and supermarkets remains above Sh200, the same as a “gorogoro” (tin) of maize before the milling costs are added.

Other decisions of immense national interest in an ethnically and regionally diverse nation pondered by the public and media include appointments to State offices that have displayed glaring ethnic biases and individuals with questionable integrity issues.

But it is the high cost of living and the proposed taxation measures in the Finance Bill, 2023 that have attracted most controversy and indignation, especially those seeking to compel workers to contribute three per cent of their salary to the affordable housing project.

It will be interesting to see how these critical issues facing the nation are going to feature in the scheduled bipartisan talks. What is certain is that the media will robustly focus on them on behalf of anxious wananchi.

— The writer comments on political and economic affairs.                                                                   – albertoleny@gmailcom

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