Youth, Media and Politics in The Times Of COVID.

A lot has been happening in the Kenyan political scene for years now. And when the COVID19 pandemic came to play, things went on a sudden slow down with the aim of controlling the spread of the virus. For months, political leaders tried to stay home and rarely held any political gatherings. But after a recent exposee on #COVIDMillionaires, suddenly the number of daily infected people went down, and with it political rallies came into play. This has had many Kenyans wondering if the number of COVID-19 infections was hugely exaggerated. Or are COVID-19 restrictions only applicable to the normal mwananchi and not political leaders.

As a youth in this country, it is very important to be aware of everything that is happening in the political scene especially things that deal with governance. These things have proven to have a way of affecting your life in one way or another. You don’t want to be ignorant during these changing times and then later start blaming other people on things that you would have helped change or foster. And the BBI report is one of the initiatives you should closely follow as this can hugely determine Kenya’s future in which you are apart of. So, how can you be part of these conversations as a youth? You can start by reading the BBI report and understanding what it is all about. And then take a personal stand on whether you support the initiative or not as this will be very important in laying ground to what you will be advocating for. This will also enable you to have a better understanding of the proposed governance style and if it will be beneficial to the Kenyan community.  After understanding this, you can be actively involved in conversations with like-minded people both offline and online. Don’t be shy to share contrary opinions, as through your unique opinions, other young people will engage with you and share their own opinions. 

In the African setting, it is firmly established by both the ACHPR and the UN Human Rights Council that the same rights that people have offline must also be protected online, in particular, the right to freedom of expression. It is quite unfortunate that the media in Kenya is still chasing for press freedom. The media houses are really struggling to be let free to broadcast or publish stories without state interference. Recently, a local newspaper had to make an apology to CS Matiangi over a story they ran suggesting that the interior cabinet secretary was eyeing the top job.  I found this to be unnecessary as media houses are allowed to run different stories as long as they are not defamatory. This is not the only unique case as they are many instances that the government has interfered with media freedoms in the recent times.

Digital rights are very important because they ensure the protection of citizens’ digital presence. People therefore need to understand that technology is shaping our rights, for good and not for ill. Data Profiling and restrictive laws threaten the Kenyan Internet community. So, as Kenyans we must defend our digital rights and the government needs to ensure that its citizen’s digital rights are not infringed. With the existence of the computer misuse and cybecrimes act, we still have a long way in achieving media freedoms as some sections of the act directly infringe on the citizens’ digital rights.

Fake news have been making their rounds both offline and online. But mostly they have been more prevalent on social media. People are spending hours creating and spreading fake news, on politics and the ongoing pandemic. A recent fake news story that made rounds on social media was one on Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i. A blogger alleged that the CS had been admitted at the Aga Khan Hospital ICU with Covid-19.  Am actually glad this action wasn’t left unpunished and the blogger is currently answering charges on publishing false information. Another fake story that ran online a while back purported that taking strong tea(black tea) can cure one against Covid-19.

People tend to share fake news knowingly and sometimes unknowingly. Some people want to be the first ones to share a particular piece even before verifying. And especially now, a lot of information is available to us and we might not always counter-check to know if it is true or false. The government of Kenya actually warns against the spread of fake news as it affects people negatively. We are therefore urged before we share information online or offline, to make sure it is true or factual information. Some people are very sensitive to certain information and whatever you might be telling them could affect them negatively. Publishing false information about people or companies could also affect their brand negatively. You could even be sued for large sums of money if it’s confirmed you’re sharing false information or defamatory remarks.

The #COVIDMillionaires corruption scandal has opened the eyes of Kenyans on the never ending rot in our government. As Kenyans, we have continually asked that our government put an end to corruption. But with the entry of every New Year, newer and bigger corruption scandals get discovered.  We therefore need our media houses to never relent on exposing such dubious acts as through them, we get to know exactly what is going on in the government. By conducting such exposés, the media can shape conversations and influence the change we want in our country.

The government should allow the media to perform its role of informing citizens on various issues. This will enable a democratic environment to thrive. Let the youth also be involved in online and offline discussions on issues on governance and advocating for digital rights and media freedoms.  



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