Houses submerged due to the rising waters of Lake Baringo in the Great Rift Valley due to the effects of climate Change.

Kenya: Free Press Key to Battling Climate Misinformation

By Namarome Cecile Walubengo

The fight against climate change requires not only scientific understanding but also clear, accessible communication. This urgency was echoed at the World Press Freedom Day 2024 held in Nairobi on May 2nd, 2024. The theme, “A press for the planet: Journalism in the face of the environmental crisis,” highlights the importance of journalism and freedom of expression in the context of the current global environmental crisis.

“Journalists encounter significant challenges in seeking and disseminating information on contemporary issues, such as supply-chains problems, climate migration, extractive industries, illegal mining, pollution, poaching, animal trafficking, deforestation, or climate change. Ensuring the visibility of these issues is crucial for promoting peace and democratic values worldwide,” UNESCO said in its 31st World Press Freedom Day Conference concept note.

In Kenya, stakeholders within the industry emphasized the importance of a free and independent press in tackling environmental challenges.

David Omwoyo, CEO of the Media Council of Kenya (MCK), underscored the crucial role of journalism in promoting conservation efforts. He stressed the need to amplify the voices of environmental advocates and investigative reporters.

Agnes Kalekye, Chairperson of Media Owners Kenya, highlighted the vital role of a free press in combating environmental degradation and driving positive change. She emphasized the power of journalism in shaping public discourse on environmental issues.

Debunking Myths, Deepening Understanding

In one of the sessions, “The digital space as a vehicle to information integrity in the face of an environmental crisis,” moderated by Mr Victor Kapiyo, Trustee KICTANet with panellists: Ms Irene Mwoga, Data Specialist and Regional Coordinator for Digital Transformation, Africa Office UNEP, Mr John Okande, Programme Officer UNESCO, Ms Njeri Ngugi, Digital News editor, Royal Media Services, Mr Francis Mureith, Digital Editor, Radio Africa Group, Mrs Millicent Awuor, editor in Chief, Kenya Broadcasting Corporation and Mr Kevin Mabonga, Communication and Public Liason Lead, Katiba Institute, emphasised on collaboration between media outlets, NGOs, and government agencies, to offer a roadmap for tackling misinformation and empowering the Kenyan public to take action on climate change.

panel discussion on digital space as vehicle to information integrity in a climate crisis age.

By exploring the intersection of digital media, information integrity and environmental crisis the panel contributed valuable insights to the broader conversation about journalism’s role in protecting the planet.

The panel further discussed the challenges and opportunities in climate change reporting in Kenya, focusing on data-driven storytelling, intersectionality, media literacy, and interdisciplinary approaches. 

They also discussed the challenges of disinformation in emerging technologies and the need for better storytelling to reach a wider audience through digital platforms.

  • Equipping journalists: Training journalists to translate complex climate issues into clear, accessible language was a central focus. This aligns with the previously identified need to improve climate change reporting and empower the public with accurate information.
  • Debunking myths: The panel emphasized the importance of actively debunking misinformation surrounding climate change. This includes clarifying vital topics like the role of forests in regulating weather patterns, and directly addressing the spread of misinformation.
  • Deepening audience understanding: The panel highlighted the need for journalists to go beyond basic reporting and foster a deeper understanding of climate phenomena and their underlying mechanisms.

World Press Freedom Day: A Global Commitment

The event served as a reminder of the importance of World Press Freedom Day, established by the UN General Assembly on May 3rd. It highlights the right to freedom of expression enshrined in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

It’s a day for governments to be held accountable for upholding this right and for media professionals to reflect on press freedom and ethical practices.

Continentally, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Commission), through the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa (the Special Rapporteur), emphasized the need for regional cooperation and protection of vulnerable populations to combat climate change’s impact on human rights.

The Special Rapporteur noted that climate change is a crucial topic for journalists. They can raise awareness, share relevant information, and encourage open discussion on critical issues. Subsequently, freedom of expression and access to information are essential for all actors to address climate change effectively. This includes ensuring journalist safety, open access to government-held climate data, and upholding the right to privacy.

Press Freedom Still Bleak in Kenya

Unfortunately, according to the 2024 Global Press Freedom Index by Reporters Without Borders (RSF), Kenya continues to decline for the second year in a row, appearing in position 102 out of 180 countries. The country was at position 116 in 2023.

RSF  has five distinct categories or indicators; Political, socio-cultural, economic, security and legal framework.

“Respect for press freedom in Kenya is highly dependent on the political and economic context. A Pakistani journalist’s (Arshad Sharif) murder in October 2022 highlighted the dangers that media personnel face in this country,” the report noted.

The report notes that much of Kenya’s media is owned by political leaders or individuals with close government ties. This raises concerns about the influence of appointing media managers and editors. The report concludes that this “strong governmental presence” leads to self-censorship among journalists.

On the other hand, Kenya’s 2010 Constitution was lauded for its progressive stance on freedom of expression, media freedom, and access to information (Articles 33, 34, and 35 respectively). However, the report suggests that celebrating these legal protections may be premature.

Despite the constitutional guarantees, numerous laws and regulations (around 20) restrict press freedom. For instance, the 2018 Computer Misuse and Cybercrimes Act carries harsh penalties (up to 10 years imprisonment and hefty fines) for spreading “fake news” that could incite violence.

Additionally, accessing public information remains difficult despite a law supposedly guaranteeing it.

Namarome Walubengo is an International Relations and Affairs Student at Strathmore University



David Indeje information

Related Posts

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.