The Media Council of Kenya wants Kenyan Bloggers to undertake a degree or diploma course in Mass communication in order to be accredited as journalists! No, this is not a bad joke but a decree issued by the MCK CEO, Harum Mwangi during a weekend media workshop at the Great Rift Valley Lodge in Naivasha.
“It becomes very hard when a complaint comes to our office that a blogger has defamed or abused a person online. This is because bloggers do not have any idea about journalism or the code of ethics,” said Mr Mwangi.
He argued that bloggers were tarnishing professionalism in the media with many abusing social media platform and using it as a tool to breed ethnicity and hatred.
“Most of them have never stepped in any media class. That is why they can be able to publish obscenities and get away with it. They only care for their popularity,” he added. (find full article here)
I am inclined to believe that this has a lot to do with the #WestgateAttack and how the accredited journalists were reduced to mere retweeting of information as it came from one particular blogger who seemed to have more intel than even Ole Lenku himself.
It might also have something to do with the fact that Kenyans still got access to the PG rated images of Nairobi County Women Representative Rachel Shebesh and her
lover Colleague, Mike Mbuvi Sonko – The Nairobi County Senetor. This was despite most mainstream media houses refusing to give the story any coverage. The photos went viral not just on blogs but also on twitter and MKZ FB.
I have been reading a book titled ‘What Would Google Do‘ by Jeff Jarvis. What was of particular interest and is relevant to this discussion is how Google affected media.
Maybe what the Media Council needs to focus on is not – how to regulate bloggers in the box of ‘Accredited Journalists’ but instead ask themselves, are we still relevant as MCK in the new world of Alternative Media!!
The MCK is unwilling to change itself from within before regulating Kenyan Bloggers or dealing with this nightmare that has become alternative on-line media!
Definition of a blogger
This is usually dependent on who is being asked. Ask a Kenyan Politician and they will tell you its anyone who posts things on-line whether on FB, twitter or on a blog.
Maybe MCK needs to first give us their working definition of a blogger before asking for degree and diploma certificates, that way, everyone else can stop referring to a mere tweep as a blogger. It’s an insult to actual bloggers.
All bloggers write Tribal/Ethnicity posts
When I first heard these utterances, I must confess I went into a soul searching exercise trying to think back at any time my 8 year old blog contained tribal or ethnic hatred-filled utterances.
With time I came to realize that the words tribal posts on-line actually referred mostly to MKZ (FB) posts and that, like any other interested party, the government and the mainstream media had(still have) their agenda. Portray bloggers as tribal in-order to retain viewership/readership/royalty. Only problem was, you can only sell that B.S for so long before guys tell you they don’t care by spending more time on these social media platforms, more than South Africans who are seen as more technologically advanced than Kenyan.
Ignore till it is extremely necessary to deal with it
This is the tactic MCK has employed ever since the first handful of bloggers (RoomThinker, KenyanPundit, MentalAcrobatic et-al) started blogs as far back as 2003.
There is a good number of journalists who still believe that bloggers are idle rich teenagers somewhere in their room or hostel posting nude photos of Shebesh and Sonko.
This has been sold as the worthlessness of a blogger for so long that MCK did not realize the actual nightmare bloggers posed to them as a regulator.
It is a well known fact that most media houses still regard bloggers as sources of info that do not need to be credited or if need be, a journalist can simply say ‘a source on the internet’.
There has always been a resentment between Kenyan Bloggers and Journalists for obvious reasons. However, instead of MCK and the whole mainstream media fraternity seeking ways in which to work together with bloggers as collaborators on niche news, they decided to ignore us all together.
The corporate world in Kenya stopped caring much for blogger accreditation when they realized how much their target market reads blogs and other social media forums.
Ask the Telecoms & Phone manufacturers what impact blog reviews and coverage has had on their products and they will laugh at you saying “But they are not accredited by MCK!!”
Suppose as a blogger who wants to be compliant, I decide to enroll at Zetech College or KSMC for that degree or diploma in Mass communication. Then I go through the offline process of being accredited by MCK.
Maybe MCK needs to enlighten us as bloggers on the goodies that journalists get like free tickets to events, bus fare, t-shirts, mugs, pens etc. But wait, some bloggers are already getting freebies!
The point I am driving at is, whether or not a blogger is accredited by MCK, their( blogger’s) ’publish’ icon will remain active. Bloggers will continue giving ‘unverified’ information whether its the truth or not and the reader will decide whether to read the posts or not.
The power and tools that have defined journalism for so long are no longer in the control of a few. The rise of the citizen journalist will prove to be a huge challenge not just to mainstream Media houses, but to MCK, the government and powers that like control.
When the Westgate attacks started, news of it was first broken on twitter. Whether or not the twitter accounts were verified or were from a credited journalist did not matter and still does not.
Since everyone with access to the internet is a potential citizen journalist, do we all then need to enroll for Mass Communication courses in order to be accredited by MCK?
Over to you……