OPINIONPeople Daily

End of Moi era meant media space expansion

This week we once again marked Moi Day after many years of not being on the calendar. It may be lost to the older generation that most Kenyans have no idea what Moi Day is about. They need education. The patriotic songs that characterised Moi reign used to feature mass choirs made up of primary school children.

Those children are now adults. May be to keep our history alive we may as well mark Moi Day as a lesson in history.

What does Moi Day mean for the media? What would the media have been if Moi were still president? Certainly, very different than what we know. For a start People Daily would probably not be running. It was viewed as opposition paper and it would have been very dangerous to associate with it.

The Royal Media Services (RMS), currently the most expansive electronic media enterprise in Kenya would not be there. It is difficult to envisage how under President Moi, Royal Media would have been licensed to operate a single station, leave alone the range of television and radio products in its stable today.

The fate of RMS would have been that of vernacular stations now dotting the countryside. These would have not been licensed. The Moi regime would have argued that these stations would sow seeds of discord that would have divided the country. There is evidence that the regime would have felt justified, after all, a vernacular station was one of those cited in the case at The Hague.

Of course the media industry would have never been liberalised. The media houses that now compete for audiences such as NTV would still be struggling along the court corridors to force the government to licence them.

Other stations such as KissTV would have been switched off the air because of the kind of music they play. In the same vein, K24 TV would have been banned for airing the programme Connect.

State House would have argued that such programmes corrupt the morals of Kenyans. The media would never have been liberalised, and media organisations such as the Media Council of Kenya would not be in existence in the robust forms that they are in today.

Of course the laws that media experts reel off their lips as enabling the industry such as Article 34 of the Constitution would not be there, since there would have been no new Constitution anyway.

KBC would be a must watch station. This is because all important announcements would have come through KBC. The 1pm and 7pm news would be a must watch for politicians — particularly those who want to know whether they still had jobs or not. Besides, everybody would be familiar with that tune — Kanu yajenga nchi the prelude to the news bulletin.

Everybody would have been able to guess the first news item on KBC. That line would have ran something like: “His Excellency President Daniel Toroitich arap Moi, today at…” and would have featured, in the background, a picture of him taken in the 1970s.

There would be some few but very powerful journalists. These would have been journalists approved by the State to broadcast and write content representing State position on issues.

It should be obvious that the film, Rafiki, would have not been shown anywhere in Kenya. It is hard to imagine how the producer would even have dreamt of it. We have come from far. — The writer is the Dean School of Communication, Daystar University.

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