STAKEHOLDERS CALL FOR STRONGER MEDIA – CSO PARTNERSHIP TO PROTECT CIVIL LIBERTIES

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“The civic space, including press freedom continues to be under severe strain, and has worsened with
the enforcement of the Covid 19 health regulations. We at KCA wish to call on the media and civil
society organizations in Kenya and the region to work together on strategies to expand and safeguard
the civic space and promote the enjoyment of civil liberties as enshrined in our national constitutions,
regional and international instruments,”
Janak said KCA had launched an initiative to create opportunities to enhance the collaboration between
the CSOs and the media to better defend civic space and help correct the emerging negative narratives
and perceptions of civil society and the media in East Africa meant to undermine their role of holding
the states, agencies and leaders accountable.
The President of the Civil Society Congress Morris Odhiambo led the forum in discussing the role of civil
society in democratization and protection of civil liberties adding that the media and the CSOs had a
responsibility to work together to safeguard public interest by protecting the civic space from being
constrained.
Odhiambo said debate on civic space protection must take a broader regional view given the tendency
by the states to borrow from one another negative practices and draconian laws that limited the rights
of citizens in the region.
Veteran journalist Kwamchetsi Makhoha discussed the role of the media in protecting civic space, which
he said was increasingly being undermined by the focus on commercial interests at the expense of
public good. He called for “a watchdog” for both the media and civil society sectors if they were to
effectively discharge their public interest role of protecting the civic space.
The forum reviewed the civic space in the Covid19 period with regard to press freedom, police brutality
freedom of assembly, expression, access to information, economic rights and social-cultural rights which
participants said were increasingly being violated by the state and other actors.
The stakeholders called for robust CSO- Media joint interventions and the need to get more players from
the two sectors on board the initiative and to win more champions committed to advocating for the
protection of the civic space.
A number of speakers said the online space had become an important public arena for discussing
important public issues. Grace Githaiga, the Convener of an online forum, KICTAnet called for more
participation of the media and CSOs in protecting the online space whenever the government other
anti- freedom actors tried to introduce bad laws.
Janak said the initiative to enhance media –CSO collaboration will seek to bring in other actors from the
East African region adding that similar forums were planned for Uganda and Tanzania within July to rally
bigger efforts to protect the civic space in the region.