UPDATE Thursday September 10: The Ethics and Anti Corruption Commission has warned governors that the move to blacklist media, including Nation Media Group, over unfavourable coverage is illegal and unconstitutional, stating that any accounting officer implementing the instruction will be criminally liable.
The Council of Governors on Wednesday September 9 came under fire following a statement revealing it will block adverts to Nation Media Group after it published a story it found unfavourable on corruption.
The story published had the headline ‘Eight governors on graft hit list’.
In the story, the publication reported that the anti-graft agency had narrowed down to eight counties in its investigation into corruption.
Chief Executive Officer Twalib Mbarak did not name the counties but disclosed the vices flagged include flouting procurement laws, embezzlement of funds and illegal employment of workers, with the use of forged documents in some cases.
The story did not go down well with the Council of Governors, with chairman Wycliffe Oparanya announcing counties would stop advertising with the Nation Media Group until further notice over what it described as a ‘smear campaign’.
In a statement on Wednesday, Chairman Wycliffe Oparanya revealed that the council had followed up on the “sensational reporting and found that it lacked merit”.
“The only reason we note that the media seems to be carrying out this smear campaign is only known to themselves,” he said.
“Therefore, no county shall advertise with NMG merchandise until the situation is rectified.”
Oparanya urged all counties to immediately cease engaging with NMG and advise the county officers about it until further notice.
“Any other media house that will carry salacious stories about governors without verifying and therefore misinform the public and portray governors in negative light without any truth will face similar treatment.” threatened Oparanya.
In a statement, the Media Council of Kenya revealed the governor’s statement was in bad faith and a threat to media freedom.
“The Media Council of Kenya (MCK) takes great exception at the content of a statement issued by the Council of Governors (CoG) on Tuesday 8th September, 2020 regarding the media’s coverage of alleged corruption in County Governments and in particular the alleged involvement of Governors in such impropriety,” the council stated on Wednesday.
The MCK stated that it respects the CoG’s right to express its views and opinions on the media, but added it is co-regulated by the government and media stakeholders as outlined in the Media Council Act of 2013.
“Any complaint against any journalist or media enterprise is to be channeled to the Media Complaints Commission operating under the auspices of the Media Council of Kenya for determination and appropriate action. These are the stipulations of the law and regulations governing the media sector,which binds the public, government and media itself,” it mentioned in the statement.
The council also stated it will hold CoG responsible for any attacks that may be directed at journalists doing their work.
Politicians also condemned the CoG’s statement. Elgeyo Marakwet Senator Kipchumba Murkomen called the CoG ‘parochial, petty and myopic’.
COG under the leadership of @GovWOparanya has become parochial,petty&myopic.A story about governors is not about county. Does it mean County advertisements are dished based on the benevolence of individual governors?Why are governors interfering with procurement matters? pic.twitter.com/jJ43JHCjuR
— KIPCHUMBA MURKOMEN, E.G.H (@kipmurkomen) September 9, 2020
“A story about governors is not about county. Does it mean County advertisements are dished based on the benevolence of individual governors?Why are governors interfering with procurement matters?” he retorted.
Murkomen added that the statement is enough for EACC to investigate the governors.
“They should not and must not use county resources as a shield against accountability,” he urged.
“I know in the list governors who already recorded statements with EACC. Don’t intimidate the public and the media.”