Kazi Bila Chakula...

March 29th was leap day it was also the day that journalists at the countries only government owned media house downed their cameras and microphones and switched off the teleprompters and left their desks and vowed to pound the stretch of road outside their offices (even in the presence of the GSU shuttled to the offices to stop the strike) until their grievances- that include what they termed as poor pay, non-payment of salary arrears, lack of promotion and sexual harassment of female staff by bosses -are listened to by the government.

On Friday however the information and Communication minister Samuel Poghisio played his hand first issued an ultimatum to the I, 212 (812 permanent and 400 contracted staff) workers to return to their desks by 2pm, calling a press conference at which he termed the strike as “illegal” and said that the employees actions were in “bad faith”, further adding that “The strike was premature and the ministry would therefore like to call upon all workers to immediately call off the strike and report to work,” “Those who will not have done so would be deemed to have absconded duty. As for the temporary employees who have also been on strike, they have already terminated their implied contract with the corporation. They must therefore re-apply for their assignments anew.”

As his deadline came and went he played yet another card when he fired the rioting journalists and instructed the broadcaster’s board of directors to publish advertisements announcing the vacancies come Monday. If he thought the threat of losing the jobs they were already disgruntled with would cow the staff back into the building he was sorely mistaken as it only served to strengthen their resolve. Who shot back a defiant response saying: “The strike is on and we will not comply with the order to resume work at the corporation. The strike is not only legal but constitutional and anchored on Article 41(1) of the Constitution of Kenya.”

This is not the first time the minister has had to deal with an angered media in 2007 when members of the Media took to the streets to protest the passing by parliament of a media law that demanded greater media control, compelling journalists to disclose their sources of information.

Then in 2008 the minister was again in the headlines after he sponsored the Kenya Communication (Amendment) Bill arguing that the government has no intention to raid the media. He argues that the clause was inserted only as a safety measure and further saying “We do not raid media houses anymore. This is just a measure that can only be taken during emergencies." The bill that was to give sweeping powers to the minister for information and broadcasting to control every aspect of the country's media and communication sector, thus risking the independence of the media. It certainly seems as though the minister knows how to rub journalists up the wrong way. 

It is truly a sad state of affaires when striking and taking to the streets with placards, yelling and chanting in unison and furry is the norm and the only way for Kenyans to get those in charge to listen to their grievances, it has been done so often that it’s rendering itself (in some cases) ineffective.  

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