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January 16, 2024

African Media Landscape Regional Study Report: The case of East Africa

By Sharon W. Kiburi, Kenya. ACRP East Africa Network Region Lead 2023.

(Picture Credit: Shutterstock)

Abstract

As in many parts of the world, Eastern Africa has significantly shifted towards digital media consumption. The region has experienced increased internet penetration, leading to the growth of online news platforms, social media influence, and digital storytelling. This paper discusses topics drawn from research and surveys presented to media professionals in East African countries. The topics include media regulation and freedom, media training and education, mobile journalism, global local trends, the safety of journalists, limits to internet access, political interference, and interactive engagement.

According to the findings, the region has grappled with issues of freedom and regulation in Tanzania, South Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda, and Rwanda, just to name but a few. Evidence further suggests that some countries, like Kenya, have faced criticism for imposing restrictions on the press, while others have tried to strengthen media independence. In the case of media training and education, a number of universities and educational institutions in the East African region have expanded their media and journalism programs to produce skilled professionals who can navigate the evolving media landscape. Mobile journalism (MoJo), the use of smartphones for journalism purposes, has grown. Journalists and citizen reporters use mobile technology to capture and disseminate news, particularly in areas with limited infrastructure.

East African media has adopted global-local trends in such a way that media outlets have increasingly shifted online to reach wider audiences. News websites, social media, and mobile apps are commonly used platforms for disseminating news and engaging with audiences. The spread of misinformation and fake news has led to the development of fact-checking initiatives and organizations, helping combat the dissemination of false information. Efforts have been made to improve media literacy among the public. Educational programs and initiatives aim to teach critical thinking skills and encourage responsible media consumption.

Journalists in Eastern Africa often work in dangerous environments, facing threats, physical violence, and intimidation. Such predicaments make investigative journalism and reporting on sensitive issues a perilous task. While digital media is rising, the region has a significant digital divide, and limited internet access and infrastructure disparities can limit the reach of online media. The spread of misinformation on social media platforms is a pervasive problem, leading to public confusion and mistrust of media sources. Fact-checking and media literacy are crucial challenges. Particularly where political leaders may attempt to control, threaten, harass, intimidate, or manipulate media outlets for their own agendas, affecting the independence of journalism. Governments may use the licensing of media outlets to control the industry. Requiring licenses for publication or broadcasting can be used to exert influence over content. Many regional governments operate state-owned media outlets, which are used to disseminate government propaganda and control the narrative on crucial issues.

While there is greater access to information, there has also been a decline in trust in the media, particularly in traditional journalism. Instances of misinformation and fake news have contributed to this erosion of trust. Meanwhile, social media platforms have facilitated greater interactivity between media consumers and producers. Audiences can now directly engage with journalists, provide feedback, and contribute to news stories through user-generated content. A growth in the number of media outlets focused on community engagement and solutions-oriented reporting, aiming to impact and empower local communities directly, has been seen.

1. Introduction

The media in East African nations is diverse and vibrant, with a mix of privately owned and state-owned outlets. Radio is still the most popular medium in the region, according to a paper on media and the pandemic by Okoth (2021), particularly in rural areas where the majority of the population resides. Kenya had more than 180 licensed radio stations by mid-2021 and over 19,000 online publications.

Radio, which faces real competition from online platforms, including social media, manages to remain the most popular media medium consumed in most East African countries. For example, using satellite-collected data, the Media Council of Kenya's 2022 State of the Media Report rates media consumption in Kenya as follows: Radio is the most popular, followed by television, social media platforms, and newspapers in fourth place. The digital reinvention of radio on websites and mobile devices has contributed to radio's continued viability.

One of the East African nations, Ethiopia, home to approximately 112 million people, has suffered decades of media repression, censorship, and crackdowns. According to the report, Media and the Pandemic by Okoth (2021), radio, television (TV), and digital media are the leading media platforms in Ethiopia, with radio being the most consumed medium. Ethiopia has 25 publicly owned national and regional radio stations; commercial entities own 10 radio stations. Several broadcasters have a presence in the region. Out of the 51 stations registered with the Ethiopian Broadcasting Authority, 31 are functioning community radio stations.

Almost half of the population in Tanzania uses radio as its daily news source; four out of five Tanzanians use it at least monthly to get the latest information. In Tanzania, both traditional and digital media have seen some recent growth. According to official statistics by Media Ownership Monitor, there are currently 183 radio stations (up from 98 in 2014), 43 broadcasting services (up from 36 in 2014), and 229 newspapers and magazines (up from 216 in 2018).

Radio income in Tanzania is predicted to increase from US$32 million in 2018 to US$42 million in 2023, according to the worldwide business data site Statista in the year 2021. However, most of this revenue is still concentrated among the top ten radio stations, leaving more than 170 others to struggle for the crumbs.

Media industry participants highlight several political, legal, and regulatory issues limiting their capacity to operate independently. Media professionals in Tanzania experienced intimidation and repression under President John Magufuli's rule from 2015 to 2021. Journalists were arbitrarily detained and arrested to restrict the right to free speech; their licenses were suspended, and media owners were subjected to hefty fines. Under President Samia Suluhu, the press enjoys some latitude because she encourages media freedom by ‘protecting journalists and opening more space for freedom of expression and the media.’

Uganda boasts nearly 300 licensed radio stations and over 80 free-to-air TV stations, serving a population of 44 million. Radio is a more popular medium than TV, newspapers, and digital media, mainly due to rural areas' lack of electricity and poor internet connectivity, according to the report Media and the Pandemic by Okoth (2021). Further, the report highlights that Uganda is ethnologically varied, with at least 40 dialects. Even though English and Luganda are the most widely used languages in the national media, the lack of a dominant language means that some stations are popular in some regions but not throughout the country. Most large-audience radio stations continue to base their operations in Kampala.

In most East African countries, the broadcast media is also growing, with television and radio stations reaching a broad audience. In recent years, online media outlets have proliferated, providing news and information to a global audience, as stated in the report by UNESCO, Freedom of connection, freedom of expression: the changing legal and regulatory ecology shaping the Internet

While East African countries seek to meet global media standards, it is critical to contextualize international journalism rules in the distinctive cultural setting in which African journalists work. This encompasses topics such as female journalists' safety, harassment, and the absence of ethical journalism practiced and witnessed in some media outlets.

“There is an uptake in more specialized reporting areas than before,” said Dr. Caroline Njoroge, media trainer and practitioner at Daystar University in Kenya, during an in-person interview. She added that there is an overall effect on this kind of solution-driven journalism specialization.  Moreover, Miss Njoroge said that the contemporary paradigm of scarce funding for specialized reporting fields and the challenge of locating pertinent expert sources to comment on news elements, situations like these—have a significant impact on the function that journalism plays in society today by affecting the storytelling quality.

According to the findings of the survey conducted in this report, some of the significant challenges that affect media practice and study in the region include

  • competing interests in media and journalism institutions,  e.g., universities and colleges,
  •  shrinking media space,
  •  Technological convergence
  •  Media viability and sustainability
  •  disinformation and misinformation.

In any field where civic space is shrinking, investigative journalism is curtailed. Media houses face incessant pressure from authorities, including threats to withdraw advertising and many defamation lawsuits, like the case of Tuko Junior editor,  awarding monetary and  punitive damages to complainants. The Kenyan government has also revived the tactic of filing criminal libel cases against journalists who adversely mention those in power and authority in investigative stories about corruption.

In Kenya, investigative journalism has become a high-risk endeavor. Purity Mwambia, a citizen TV journalist, and her crew were forced to escape Kenya in 2021 after covering a story on police renting out their guns to criminals. Arshad Sharif, a Pakistani investigative journalist, was assassinated by police in Kenya in October 2022 under disputed, dubious circumstances.

This report provides an overview of the following East African countries, notably the Union of Comoros, Republic of Djibouti, State of Eritrea, Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia, Republic of Kenya, Republic of Madagascar, Republic of Mauritius, Republic of Rwanda, Republic of Seychelles, Federal Republic of Somalia, Republic of South Sudan, United Republic of Tanzania, and the Republic of Uganda.

As stated by a United Nations E-Magazine, Africa Renewal (2016), the media in East African nations strives to hold governments accountable and inform citizens about their rights and responsibilities. At the same time, it provides a forum for public debate and discussion.

Sadly, the media operates in an environment vulnerable to political interference. According to a study by African Journalism Studies titled Practices, Policies, and Regulation in African Journalism: Mapping a Research Agenda, published in 2020, governments in some East African countries have been known to interfere with the press by censoring content or by total abuse of power to close down critical outlets.

Further, the 2020 report Mapping a Research Agenda illustrates that, although there has been significant progress in media literacy, most people in East Africa lack the ability to critically assess media content, leaving them open to disinformation and manipulation. While a significant challenge for journalism in East Africa is fighting institutional and government corruption, as well as the regulation of journalism training, an acute challenge for journalism in East Africa is the insecure situation for journalists due to state actions against the media and consequently also journalism education, even if it is in a more subtle form.

For instance, the deputy president, Rigathi Gachagua, would like the media to be gagged. To silence dissenting opinions, which has taken the form of outright threats, intimidation, and harassment of journalists. As a result, some journalists have become fearful and self-censoring, hesitating to cover what they deem delicate subjects.

Kenya's and the region's governments restrict criticism from the media, and politicians infiltrate the media, according to a UNODC paper in 2014. In addition, this has occasionally resulted in self-censorship. Worse, regarding government advertising, the administration has utilized a carrot-and-stick approach. The nature of media's reliance on commercials and program placement for finances has seen media houses need help with constraints for sustainability. The strain on many media outlets to make a profit may cause the decline of quality journalism or self-censorship for both media outlets and journalists.

Experts and critics of the media landscape say that the government uses soft censorship through advertisements to intimidate and censor media outlets in Kenya. Political power has a significant impact on the type of reporting and stories that journalists can publish. In a recent case scenario in Kenya, the National Media Group fell victim to that when  Moses Kuria, Cabinet Secretary (CS) for Investments, Trade, and Industry, publicly stated that all government sectors would withhold advertisements from the nation's media platforms on allegations that they gave imperfect representations of the government's activities. A statement that the current deputy president, Rigathi Gachagua, appeared to support in a subsequent speech On June 20, 2023, during the Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology’s 40th graduation ceremony, Gachagua said the government will keep the media in check. Broad research and extensive investigations of news articles and features are necessary to maintain the credibility and authenticity of the press.

The emphasis is placed on consumerism and gossip content, while a large portion of the media copies and pastes trends. Sometimes, intimidation is used in conjunction with media rules and regulations to restrict and control journalists. Digital technologies also present particular difficulties for the practice of journalism, according to the survey conducted for this report,Challenges and Developments in Journalism in East Africa.”

On the other hand, digital technologies seem to blur the traditional concept of journalism, giving journalists a way to publish their work online and avoid state control. On the other hand, if it is used to promote hate, division, and nationalistic speech, it can be a platform for those things. The Key factors influencing journalism in East Africa include industry practices, rules, and legislation, according to the article published by Anthony Wafula and Mendi Njonjo on December 5, 2017, in Alliance Magazine.

The Kenyan Government and Regulations Affecting Media Practices in Kenya

The following section presents the responses from the survey conducted to the question of ‘Challenges and Developments in Journalism in East Africa.

Governments restrict press and media freedom through censorship, intimidation, and legal action.  Some extreme ways to do this include blocking websites, shutting down the Internet, as feared earlier in Kenya in April 2023, banning publications, and confiscating newspapers. Increased verbal threats against the press saw Kenya’s media stakeholders unite to give press releases defending the media's freedom of expression, which was followed by discussions about media safety and security, as reported by the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK) on June/28/ 2023.

Journalists continue to face threats, harassment, and even violence for reporting on sensitive topics or criticizing those in power. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), a total of 65 journalists were killed in 2022, up from 29 in 2021. The CPJ also found that the number of journalists imprisoned for their work has reached an all-time high, with at least 293 journalists behind bars in December 2022. The threats and violence that journalists face can have a chilling effect on the freedom of the press and prevent them from reporting on important stories. It can also lead to self-censorship, as journalists may be afraid to report on specific topics for fear of being targeted. Journalists who report on sensitive topics, such as corruption, human rights abuses, or organized crime, are particularly at risk. They are also more likely to be targeted if they are women, minorities, or work for independent media outlets.

Governments should investigate and prosecute attacks on journalists to protect journalists. As well as pass and enforce laws that protect the freedom of the press. Media organizations should train journalists on safety and security and support journalists targeted by threats and violence. Civil society groups should advocate for the safety of journalists and hold governments accountable for their protection.

Restrictive broadcasting and licensing regulations have sometimes been used to suppress independent reporting. Threats to withdraw the license to operate are sometimes dangled as a stick to keep media practitioners from holding the government to account.

Limited resources and pressure to produce sensational content can compromise journalistic standards. The demand to create content that sets the agenda for society is outweighed by the requirement to generate sales and profits in an era where media outlets grapple with sustainability.

Political interference continues to compromise the independence and objectivity of journalistic work.  Governments can exert direct pressure on media organizations and journalists. Politicians and government representatives may attempt to sway media coverage by offering favorable treatment to collaborating outlets or threatening to withdraw government funds or advertising. Through rules and regulations, they might also apply indirect pressure. Politicians may enact rules or laws that make it harder for journalists to conduct their work, such as limiting access to information or making some reporting illegal. Politicians and other prominent figures may also disseminate false information and propaganda to weaken public confidence in the media and foster an environment more conducive to their goals.

Conclusions from Mapping a Research Agenda in 2020: Journalists lack the requisite abilities, such as the capacity to absorb complex data in highly specialized domains; many journalists in East African countries struggle to perform their professions properly. The Sage Journal says, ‘Some of the unique difficulties that journalists and media professionals in East Africa will face in 2023 include mental health issues, social media fatigue, and competition between conventional media and new media platforms.’

Several factors are preventing media growth in the East African region.

Reduced advertising revenue as marketers experiment with an increased variety of options accessible in digital media is one of the issues limiting media expansion in the East African region. The increase in media outlets has split the revenue earned through commercials, especially for the legacy media, which predominantly depended on this as a source of revenue.

Failure to develop innovative revenue-generating strategies for Internet media platforms. Lack of expertise or knowledge on how to capitalize on online platforms has seen some media houses lose out on revenue. However, they are progressively catching up on the new ways to earn from this platform.

Increased competition from social media platforms regarding content creation and advertising revenue generation. Because the media landscape has reduced, audiences now have more options. This has not always favored traditional media companies adopting and embracing new technologies.

A higher attrition rate as more journalists quit newsrooms to pursue other possibilities. Journalists are frequently underpaid and overworked, and job insecurity may result from layoffs in the journalism industry. A journalist's profession can be physically and emotionally taxing. Long hours, tight deadlines, and exposure to horrific stories can all contribute to burnout. The culture of the newsroom has been criticized for being overly uninclusive. This can make journalists from marginalized groups feel unwelcome and unsupported. Journalists are highly competent professionals in high demand in various fields, including public relations, marketing, and academics.

Access to information - hideous processes crafted to frustrate information access. Information is made difficult to find by placing it in obscure locations, such as websites that need to be better-indexed by search engines, or by using complex and confusing naming conventions. Charging high fees for public records or academic journals or requiring users to subscribe to services to access certain types of information. In other cases, the information is available in technical jargon or complex language or by presenting information confusingly or misleadingly. Blocking access to certain websites or online resources or removing or altering information is considered sensitive or controversial.

2. Methodology

The following research methodology, data collection, and data analysis techniques were used in the study to obtain a more comprehensive understanding of the media environment in East Africa.

The research was conducted in three main formats,namely, literature reviews consisting of online research and press releases, structured and semi-structured interviews, and surveys.

The literature review consisted of references from published books, journals, and press articles on the media landscape in East Africa.  Six key informant interviews were held with key players in the media industry from Kenya and Uganda. A targeted survey was sent to members of East Africa with the questions below.

  1. What new developments have occurred in the study of media/journalism in your country/ the Eastern African Region?
  2. What new developments have occurred in journalism practice in your country and the Eastern African Region?
  3. What challenges affect and influence the practice and study of journalism/media in your country and the Eastern African Region?
  4. Explain how the media industry has adapted to global-local trends and technological advancements in your country or the neighboring Eastern African countries.
  5. How have the government and politics affected journalism's study and practice in your country/region?
  6. Tell us how regulations and policies have affected the media and the practice of journalism in your country/region.
  7. Has the reception and perception of the media in your country/region changed? What impacts are seen in the community as a result of these changes?
  8. Explain what kind of support the journalists in your country and region require.
  9. What kind of support do media scholars in your country and region require?

3. Data Findings

This section presents the survey results and what they indicate of the perspectives on media development and journalism practice. 

Section 1: Survey Respondent Demographics

 Chart 1: Respondents’ gender distribution

Chart 2: Respondents’ country representations

Section 2: Developments in the study and practice of journalism and media in the East African region

Comments from the targeted surveys

  • “Thanks to technology, there is now a free flow of information, including the ease of interaction with the audience, who can also contribute to media material more dynamically.”
  • “With the availability of smartphones, journalists in Eastern African countries are using mobile journalism techniques, such as filming and editing films on mobile devices, to cover news from the field quickly.”
  • “Social media's emergence has made it possible for citizens to actively participate in journalism by disseminating news and information.”
  • “Twitter (X) and other platforms have become sources for breaking news and eyewitness stories. Twitter Spaces has grown in popularity as a forum for discussing national problems such as arrests, new laws, government appointments, and so on. Because they are not structured like TV/Radio shows, they allow for greater flexibility because participants utilize their phones/computers to express themselves.”
  • “Digital Journalism: Rwanda and Eastern Africa, like many other regions, have seen a dramatic move towards digital journalism. Online news platforms, blogs, and social media have all become popular places to get your news.”
  • “Because of the advances made in digital technology, many journalists believe that an MA in Digital Communications will provide them with more significant opportunities, despite the fact that the degree just provides them with a qualification rather than teaching them new skills.”
  • “Law changes and regulations either allow for the correct development of media roles or restrict their potential for expansion.”
  • “Professionalism, abilities, and content have all risen as a result of technological advancements. For example, the Internet has enabled journalists to create content on a personal level without the assistance of large media organizations.”
  • “As a supplemental source of income, many journalists establish YouTube channels where they create material and make money.”
  • “Recently, many journalists have embraced new media, both in terms of education and practice, where they may now not only write stories but also take photos, make films, and make podcasts using their phones.”
  • “Because of the rise in fake news and misinformation, there is a strong emphasis on training journalists to refute it. Much attention is also being paid to the global climate change challenge. More grants and piecing together.”
  • “We have only had male media owners in Rwanda for as long as I can recall. We now have more than 15 female proprietors of internet media platforms, but no women are yet in charge of radio or television stations.”
  • “Live reporting is becoming more popular due to technology's reduction in burden.”
  • “Journalism has evolved; a journalist must be more prepared and competent, capable of producing timely and reliable information, and capable of blending classic and modern journalism.”
  • “New journalism schools have come up, as have diverse programs.”
  • “There are new journalism schools that provide a variety of programs.”
  • “In Kenya, the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK) created a guideline on workplace sexual harassment.”
  • “An increased number of media awards given to students and journalists training in different countries and promotions at work are encouraging for journalists.”
  •  
  • “Smartphones have brought media into the hands of the general public. Digital, social media, and citizen journalism have become more critical topics of study and research in media studies as time has progressed.”
  • “There are numerous media literacy workshops available, with a focus on covering social and environmental issues." 

4.   Discussion of findings

The section focuses on interviews with six key informants and presents their findings on the East African media landscape, as well as recommendations.

Paul Busharizi, a business journalist and Author from Uganda

“The death knell for traditional media has been sounded in the wake of inadequate responses from journalists and media managers,” said Paul Busharizi, a business journalist and Author in Uganda.

The perception of media in society data from the survey

Statistics from the survey conducted: Challenges and Developments in Journalism in East Africa.

“Greater digitalization of media processes has influenced the media space in Uganda, says State Busharizi. For instance, in print media, you would travel from typewriter to paper to film to paper. Now, you move from computer to paper; photography used to be camera-film-paper, but now it's just computer to paper, or there's no transition from paper to online media in any case. As a result, production has increased, processes have been sped up, and there is a lot more information available. This has certain drawbacks as well, but the overall effect is beneficial.

Social media's pervasiveness has also lowered legacy media's influence in Uganda and the East African region. As declining circulation and profitability show, the media fails to adapt to global changes. Traditional media is finding it difficult to modify its economic model to remain competitive in a world where it is no longer the gatekeeper of what is consumed as news.

Furthermore, Busharizi stated that administrations frequently clash with the conventional media. Governments have failed to recognize the value of traditional media in developing democracy and, as a result, have been inattentive, hesitant, or outright opposed to providing the conventional press with the assistance it requires to thrive in the new environment. “Sadly, traditional media's significance as a vehicle for informing, educating, and entertaining is dwindling by the day,” explained Busharizi.

Additionally, Busharizi stated that journalists require continuous training, but media managers also require capacity building to successfully deal with the industry's fast-paced changes. “Media executives are frequently unaware of the long-term consequences of current trends and how to counteract them.”

Dr. Beatrice Mbogoh- Kenya, Daystar University from Kenya

Dr.  Beatrice Mbogoh from Daystar University's School for Communication and Media Studies says, “The media shift to online platforms and media convergence require converged newsrooms, promoting growth and particular challenges.”

The need for increased resources, such as up-to-date computers and multimedia software, significantly impacts media studies in Kenyan universities. “Kenya's media sector has adapted to global trends and developments by using mobile phones for news coverage and production,” stated Dr. Mbogoh.

Reflectively, Dr. Mbogoh said the change in political regime and the implementation of new taxation regimes in Kenya have impacted the number of students who can afford journalism education in Kenya and the surrounding region.

Moreover, Dr. Mbogoh advanced the cause of increasing media education in Kenya. More education in the form of training workshops and seminars, more finance, particularly for better equipment, and more exposure to advanced media systems outside the country so that they grasp what works and how it works.

Mbogoh added that the media is generally well-received and perceived in Kenyan society. Yet, it is not always trusted due to the availability of bogus material in media systems. Because of the prevalence of fake news and news sources, some people have lost trust in the media.

Andy Kagwa, Administrative Editor standard media group  from Kenya

Editor at the Standard Media Group (PLC), Andy Kagwa from Kenya, says, “More media companies are embracing technology and new ways of communicating with customers across several channels." Media companies have embraced technology in telling and packaging stories; for example, live-Us to communicate breaking news. However, the predicament journalists face is the lack of continuous training to help them keep abreast of the changes in the media industry. The lack of resources is partly to blame for the problem.

“Supporting journalists would entail providing training on how to use technology, including how to use AI technologies and their role in journalism, as well as providing equipment for aspiring journalists and training institutions,” Said Kagwa. Kagwa said Journalists in Kenya would benefit from regular exchange programs with countries with a developed media industry.

Patience Nyange, Kenya:  Executive Director of the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK) from Kenya:

“Technological advancements, political dynamics, and social trends continue to affect the reception and perception of the media in our society. As a result, we are now experiencing a digital transformation, citizen journalism, increased risks of disinformation and misinformation, and erosion of privacy,” said Patience. Adding to that, she said there is progress in adapting to global-local trends, but we are not there yet. There is much to be done: increase media viability, promote media freedom, and protect press freedom.

Further, Patience says collaboration with international organizations, media outlets, and institutions is required to share information, resources, and best practices. With rising technologies such as artificial intelligence catching up with us, providing a conducive atmosphere for ethical, responsible, and practical journalism in Africa is critical, ultimately contributing to an informed society and accountable governance.

Benon Herbert Oluka, Uganda Africa Editor at Global Investigative Journalism Network, is from Uganda.

“There is a more significant division of media based on themes of public interest or regions that the press serves, particularly in the non-profit media. However, as proven in several situations, even traditional media organizations are adopting similar practices,” said Mr. Oluka. Narrating, Mr. Oluka says the government has been trying to reduce advertising spending in private media in Uganda.

Recently, President Museveni directed that all government advertising should be carried out via state media platforms, a move the private media groups opposed by instituting a ban on coverage of government activities until the president relented.  Mr. Oluka explained,  “In order to maintain media sustainability, the media requires increased non-profit funding as well as targeted government support because it provides a public service that is critical to the operation of democratic societies.”

Recommending, Mr. Oluka said that international organizations such as the United Nations and the African Union implement regulations that compel states to support the media because of its critical financial function. “This is because certain governments intentionally want to undermine the media, particularly critical media, despite the fact that the media landscape has altered to the point where, if left to its own devices, the media is losing its strength and capacity to perform its duty to the public, said Mr. Oluka.

Mary Mwendwa, Senior Editor, Talk Africa- Online, from Kenya

In Kenya, there is better technology, more media outlets, and more training institutions. “With the new, growing trends in the digital era surrounding the use of AI in journalism, among other technologies, several developments have been observed. More specifically, this has improved our investigative journalism abilities because we can now quickly obtain some information,” stated Miss Mwendwa. At the same time, poor remuneration, commercial interests, government control, and social media users are infiltrating the journalism practice.

Further, Mwendwa said that political influence has undermined journalism to the point where many journalists now fear taking governments to task. Threats and intimidation, particularly in Kenya, have escalated, causing concern in the media sector. “Journalists require financial assistance as well as training on various issues affecting the region. For example, the EAC region bloc has a lot going on in terms of commerce, but we see inadequate training on this, said Miss Mwendwa.

5.   Conclusions and recommendations

Significant takeaway results: To aid media professionals, the respondents felt the following objectives should be satisfied.

Increased media freedom across the East African region. Giving journalists the space to carry on their work professionally promotes democracy and trust in the governments of the day.

Promotion of legal frameworks that preserve press freedom, free expression, and the rights of journalists. Beyond stipulation, when these stands are upheld by governments and courts, they give journalists confidence as they work.

Independent, regulatory, and solid agencies that assure fair media practices without jeopardizing editorial independence. Editorial independence is essential to foster a free press; However, sustainability through advertisement can play a role in soft censorship of the content an outlet produces. To ensure

Increased physical and psychological safety and well-being of journalists, particularly women journalists. The media workspace can be challenging, especially for female journalists; hence, ensuring a professional and conducive work environment can go a long way toward boosting performance.

Media organizations must have adequate finances and resources to invest in quality journalism, research, and investigative reporting. Great journalism requires resources in terms of time and money. Providing this for a report can encourage fantastic news features.

Encourage self-regulation in the media industry to maintain good journalism standards. Journalists face particular problems; through training and conferences, supporting unions and organizations may provide a forum for them to debate issues impacting them as well as obstacles to best practices.

Passing and enforcing laws that guarantee access to information, as guaranteed by the constitution. For instance, this could include regulations such as the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Lowering the cost of information can be accomplished by making public records, scholarly journals, and other materials accessible for free or at a cheap cost.

Improving the transparency and accountability of organizations that control information includes requiring organizations to disclose their information access policies and practices and to provide users with meaningful ways to challenge decisions about information access.

Supporting the development of open-source technologies and platforms. Open-source technologies and platforms can help to decentralize and democratize access to information.

Educating people about information access rights and how to exercise them. This includes teaching people about laws such as FOIA and the GDPR, as well as about the different ways in which information access can be frustrated.

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The full report can be downloaded here.

About the Author:

Sharon .W. Kiburi is a multimedia data journalist based in Kenya. She is enthusiastic about learning, storytelling, embracing technologies, and navigating the nuances of communication for impact. She is a firm believer in the legendary words of Bram Stoker, “But we are strong, each in our purpose, and we are all more strong together.”  Kiburi has participated in the ACRP Workshop on Digital Identity, Data & Technology in Africa, 28-31 October 2019.  The Africa-China Reporting Project has featured two of Kiburi’s publications in the New Book on Digital Identity, Data and Technology in Africa, 2022.

Sharon has been a panelist at the African Investigative Journalism Conference (AIJC2020), in the Africa-China Reporting Project Journalists Forum, and 2021 during Nigeria's Data Protection and Digital Identity workshop. Sharon is a Daystar University graduate, a Communication Major in Electronic Media class of 2014 and 2017, respectively. She has also, in the courses of her career, acquired certifications in diverse fields such as a Certificate in Risk communication & community engagement programme, Risk communication by Africa Women in Media (AWIM), Certificate in Audience Research & Content Prototyping, Operations Research by DW Akademie, Gender & Reporting on Women's Economic Justice by Thomson Reuters and Reporting Illicit Finance in Africa by the Thomson Reuters Foundation.

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