Celebrating the work of journalists in East Africa

December 19, 2023

Strengthening media is one of the key ways through which we can push for societal change. Media can increase citizen engagement by exposing people to factual information and ideas for change. This, in turn, allows people to drive and shape the political system and their own development. Hivos believes freedom of expression – which media freedom is part of – is crucial in enabling an inclusive and open society where citizens can express themselves freely.

“Imagine a world where every voice is amplified, where truth illuminates the shadows, and those in power are held accountable. This is the world that African journalists strive to create, despite facing threats, violence, and censorship.”

Kennedy Mugochi

Above is a section from the keynote address that Kennedy Mugochi, Regional Director of Hivos East Africa, gave at the fifth Annual Scribes End of the Year Meet up and Awarding Ceremony of the best scribes in 2023. This year’s edition was hosted by Hivos. The Scribes event brought together more than 120 journalists from local, regional, and international media houses based in Nairobi.

Facing challenges

Mugochi spoke about the worsening conditions that journalists are facing, especially in the Global South. He stressed the need for more support.

“Africa faces challenges, from attacks on human rights and rising costs of living to climate justice issues. In the face of these complexities, journalists play a critical role in reporting the truth and holding power accountable. The media landscape has shifted, and journalists face economic hardship, threats, and censorship. Yet they persevere, reporting the stories that matter most, even when it angers those who seek to control the narrative.”

Freedom of expression is the hallmark of democracy and inclusivity as it gives citizens the freedom to openly debate and contribute to a myriad of issues affecting them. This is, however, easier said than done as freedom of expression and access to information has been under siege in East Africa. There has been an increase in censorship rules, the freedom of artists is curtailed, and bloggers are arrested. We have seen online platforms facing restrictions, preventing journalists from freely expressing themselves and exercising their right to access and disseminate information, which renders them jobless.

In his speech, Mugochi assured the journalists that Hivos will continue to partner with them, including through more engagements with local community media to highlight stories that help build social movements that strive for just, inclusive, and sustainable societies.

Exploring alternatives

Speakers at the event also highlighted the need for journalists to explore alternatives to traditional media employment in light of the industry’s current challenges. Nairobi Leo founder and CEO Martin Wachira said that the current turbulence that media houses are facing should serve as a wake-up call for journalists to explore alternatives to formal employment at traditional media houses.

“Each one of us can create a niche to monetize our own digital space, whether it is social media or a website, and start something that can earn you an income,” said Wachira while addressing the gathering.

Mugochi added that despite these challenges, “creative voices are rising, using art forms like music, film, and virtual reality to express critical and thought-provoking narratives. Hivos supports these artists and creative entrepreneurs, believing their work reflects our values of open societies where individuals can freely express themselves and hold authorities accountable.”

Kennedy Mugochi awarding the Scribes of the Year Award to Yvone Okware from the Kenya Broadcasting corporation
Kennedy Mugochi awarding the Scribes of the Year Award to Yvone Okware from the Kenya Broadcasting corporation. Photo: Muturi Kanini, Scribes Kenya

About the Scribes event

During the ceremony, six media and communications practitioners were celebrated for their great contribution to society with their exemplary reporting in 2023. Kenya Broadcasting Corporations’ Yvonne Okwara won the overall Kenya Scribe of the Year Award 2023.

Scribes Kenya is the first digital platform that brings together journalists, public relations, and communication professionals working in the private and government sector organizations on regional, national and international levels.