Kenya 3957
Photo by: nyiragongo

Basic Data


Official Country Name: Republic of Kenya
Region (Map name): Africa
Population: 30,765,916
Language(s): English, Kiswahili
Literacy rate: 78.1%
Area: 582,650 sq km
GDP: 10,357 (US$ millions)
Number of Daily Newspapers: 4
Total Circulation: 250,000
Circulation per 1,000: 13
Number of Nondaily Newspapers: 10
Total Circulation: 110,000
Circulation per 1,000: 6
Total Newspaper Ad Receipts: 1,280 (Kenyan Shilling millions)
As % of All Ad Expenditures: 40.30
Number of Television Stations: 8
Number of Television Sets: 730,000
Television Sets per 1,000: 23.7
Number of Radio Stations: 38
Number of Radio Receivers: 3,070,000
Radio Receivers per 1,000: 99.8
Number of Individuals with Computers: 150,000
Computers per 1,000: 4.9
Number of Individuals with Internet Access: 200,000
Internet Access per 1,000: 6.5

Background & General Characteristics


Kenya's media is noteworthy given the continent's history that has had a devastating effect on the industry. At independence most African states had media that could have been developed into vibrant institutions (de Beer, Kasoma, Megwa & Steyn, 1995). In most cases, however, African nations engineered systematic schemes that decimated the industry as G.B.N. Ayittey (1992, 1999) chronicles. What sets Kenya apart is her ability to travel this tortured path behaving like every other African media bullying nation, yet maintain one of the few, by African standards, vibrant media outlets

But circumstances are changing. Kenya emerged as a state a little over a century ago, suffered colonialism, then experimented with hardly defined ideologies for a generation, but is now set to enter another epoch—since the constitution barred Danielarap Moi from standing for another electoral term when his last one ended in 2002. In Africa where government policies are subject to the whims of the leader, this new shift will be fundamental.

Kenya lies on Africa's eastern seaboard neighboring Somalia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Uganda, and Tanzania. With a population of about thirty million, the parchment of 45 tribal groupings, that Peter Mwaura (11) calls "separate mini-states," came under British colonial control in 1884 following the Berlin conference to partition Africa (Maloba; Hachten). In 1963, the country gained independence from Britain under the Kenya African National Union (KANU) government. The then opposition party, Kenya African Democratic Union (KADU) maintained a token presence in parliament for a while, then dissolved to merge with KANU. KANU has been in power initially under the nation's founding father, Jomo Kenyatta, until his death in 1978, when Moi took power in a constitutional succession. He was president until 2002.

Both towards the end of Kenyatta's reign and especially during the Presidency of Moi, the executive branch progressively excluded competitors from the government. In the late 1980s people excluded from mainstream politics began to demand participation through alternative political parties. Kenya had, until 1982, been a de facto one party state, but in that year Parliament enacted a law making the country a de jure one party state. KANU assumed greater influence in setting national policies and at one time considered itself superior to parliament. By the end of the decade, civil unrest in the country forced the party, in 1990, to repeal the law criminalizing multi-partism. Today there is just a little under fifty political parties in the country. About ten of them are represented in parliament but there are only a handful of serious parliamentary parties.

While Kenyatta's reign from 1963 to 1978 had been characterized by less stringent control of the media, at least from the President himself, the press in Kenya, under Moi, was very different. This is not to say that there were no efforts to control the press under Kenyatta's regime. Those around the President, as P. Ochieng, Frank Barton and Gunilla Faringer demonstrate, frequently called newsrooms ostensibly on behalf of the President to demand the spiking of a story. But such control may have emanated from government functionaries than from, or through, the sanctioning of Kenyatta himself. Barton (86) tells of an encounter between Kenyatta and Kenya's then three leading Editors-in-Chief: Githii, Young, and Singh:

The three men sat together in a room waiting for Kenyatta to call them in. When at last he did so he told them: "I have Uganda's President Amin here, and I am very angry with him because he has banned your newspapers. And when I say your newspapers, I mean Kenyan newspapers, and although they are privately owned, they are still Kenyan newspapers and if they are Kenyan newspapers they are my newspapers"… "So,' he went on, "that means that if he has banned my newspapers, he has banned me—and I don't like it." (86)

George Githii tells of another encounter with Kenyatta. The Nation had been running editorials that contradicted the debate on detentions without trial then taking place in the country—which were supported by the executive branch. As a consequence a reporter with the paper was deported. Githii went to see Kenyatta on the matter. He writes:

Personally, I found President Kenyatta very, very tolerant. Once my newspaper printed editorials against preventive detention, which angered some members of the executive…. Eventually, I made an appointment to see the President. His reaction was: "Those were your views; now remember to print ours." (63)

Moi, on the other hand, even while Vice President, had pesky relationships with the editors. Barton notes that:

Vice-President Arap Moi began to make regular phone calls to Young complaining about things in the Standard . Young found that the servility which was needed in some African quarters was not the best line with the Vice-President, and so he replied to Moi with as much vigour as Moi used to him. Things often ended up virtually a shouting match between the two. (87)

Kenyatta had assured the media that "Kenya's press need have no fears regarding curtailment of its freedom…" (Faringer 60) as long as the media exercised responsibility. While the media in Kenya was then foreign owned they generally supported the government. Probably as a result the government saw no need of owning a medium of their own. But those around Kenyatta, Barton notes, were very keen on owning a newspaper (82). When Moi came to power his government purchased then Nairobi Times and christened it Kenya Times. It was managed by Kenya Times Media Trust (KTMT).

Print Media

The print media can be divided into four sectors: the regular daily newspapers, the magazines, the regional newspapers, and the printed sheets that also seek to pass for newspapers in the urban centre streets.

Kenya has four daily national newspapers in English and one in Kiswahili all published in Nairobi with a combined daily circulation of almost 400,000. Relative to other nations, even those of Africa, the history of the press in Kenya is rather recent. Literacy started in Kenya following the arrival of Protestant missionaries nearly a century and a half ago (Church of the Province of Kenya). The missionaries embarked on teaching new converts how to read and write primarily so that the new converts could read biblical literature for themselves. The initial publications carried religious materials. To date, the church is still involved in some magazine publishing.

The oldest mass circulating newspaper is the Standard founded in 1902 by a Parsee migrant, A. M. Jeevanjee. The British settlers who came to Kenya had brought in Indians to work on the construction of the railway line from the coast to the interior to open up the countryside for settlement. Most of the Indians settled in Mombasa and engaged in commerce. Standard catered for these civil servants and business community. But two years later, Jeevanjee sold his interests to the partnership of Mayer and Anderson who renamed it East African Standard marking the beginnings of the European press. The Standard became the largest and most influential publication in colonial East Africa (Hachten). In the hands of Mayer and Anderson, it was a typical European people's paper concerned with the happenings in Britain and urging subservience to the settlers, a tune that for a long time remained the tone of other settler controlled media including Mombasa Mail and Nairobi News (Abuoga & Mutere, 1988; Maloba, 1992). Change in the Standard to identify with the aspirations of Africans was painstakingly slow even after independence. Over the years the Standard changed hands until Lonrho acquired it in 1967 (Faringer 35).

Lonrho had a lot of business interests in Africa and the paper served more of a safeguard of these interests. Barton (88) notes that for Lonrho "newspapers were only a means to an end, the end being the much more profitable business of packaging, breweries, transport, mining and other ventures in different parts of the Continent." Following Tiny Rowland's death in the mid-1990s and the reorganization at the Lonrho headquarters in London, it is understood that the Standard may once again have been sold, this time to a group of Kenyan political businessmen who then gained control also of the television channel KTN. It is not clear who owns this media establishment, whether Lonrho East Africa or these Kenyan businessmen. The Standard today, with a daily circulation of 54,000, has outlasted other competitors. At one time this media house published a Kiswahili paper called Baraza . Besides the Standard and KTN, this media house also operates Capital FM currently licensed to broadcast in Nairobi. The Capital FM launched operations in September 1996.

Prior to the founding of the Nation published by Nation Media Group (NMG) Kenya had a very vibrant nationalist press. Faringer (10) categorizes media in Kenya at independence into a three tier system with the European press at the top, the Indian in the middle, and African at the bottom. Although Rosalynde Ainslie (99) says that the press in Africa was a European creation, which is true, African nationalists adapted the press very much to their struggle. By 1952 Ainslie (109) reports that Kenya had nearly 50 newspapers. However, the speciality of these publications was not news as much as it was essays that agitated for freedom. Most of the contributors were nationalists, with no journalistic experience, who later became post independence leaders. All these papers folded up with the coming of independence.

The Nation, with a circulation of 184,000, is Kenya's most widely circulated newspaper today according to Lukalo and Wanyeki. It was first registered in 1959 by Michael Curtis and Charles Hayes (Ainslie 104) both newspapermen in London and Nairobi, respectively. The spiritual leader of the Ismaili community Aga Khan purchased the Nation a year later. The paper was the first to adopt a policy of Africanization (Hachten; Abuoga & Mutere; Faringer). Besides the English language Nation the NMG also publishes a Kiswahili edition Taifa Leo .

Taifa, with a 35,000 daily circulation, is an abridged version of the Nation . Taifa does not have a separate group of reporters. It uses the same pool of reporters as the Nation . While the Aga Khan is still the majority shareholder in the NMG, the firm is currently traded at the Nairobi Stock Market.

Kenya's press has always been private and foreign owned. The NMG publishes the Daily Nation and Taifa Leo on week days, and Sunday Nation and Taifa Jumapili on Sunday. Both the Saturday and Sunday editions have pullouts including a children's magazine. On the other days of the week they carry special sections: education on Monday, business on Tuesday, society on Wednesday, real estate on Thursday, and entertainment on Friday. The Nation , although targeting the Kenyan market, is also distributed throughout the East African region. NMG also publishes the EastAfrican , a conservatively designed weekly newspaper focusing on economic news in East Africa. They also own Nation TV, and Nation FM Radio both which for the moment do not have a license to operate throughout the country. They were licensed in 1998 and went on air a year later, only to broadcast in the capital Nairobi as are other radio and television stations.

The People , owned by Kenneth Matiba, started as a weekly, but turned daily with a Sunday edition in December 1998. In 2002 it had a daily circulation of 60,000. Initially founded to serve as the voice of the opposition politics and to report materials that Nation and Standard feared to touch, the People has since landed on lean times. How long it survives may depend on the outcome of its appeal against multimillion-shilling judgments that courts have returned against the paper in libel cases. But other challenges the paper faces may relate partly to the difficulty in attracting sufficient advertising revenue and partly because it has never really shed its image as a partisan newspaper trumpeting the opposition point of view.

In 1983 KANU bought Hilary Ng'weno's Nairobi Times and named it The Kenya Times (Abuoga & Mutere; Ochieng). Ng'weno, the first African editor of the Nation , founded Nairobi Times intending it to be a quality afternoon paper. He was, at the same time, publishing Weekly Review , a quality news weekly that in the late 1970s used to be known for its incisive commentaries and two children's magazines. With diminishing revenue from advertising Ng'weno sold the Times . As Kenya Times the paper has suffered an identity crisis, and not without a cause, often seen as the mouthpiece of the ruling party and government. While there is no independent verification of its circulation, its internal figures say that it has a 50,000 daily circulation. The Kenya Times until recently was not a member of the ABC but even after joining the bureau seldom discloses their circulation figures. This makes it difficult to independently establish its market performance.

A.S. Kasoma De Beer et al notes that the Kenya Times "often reflected official government policy" (238). But a former Editor-in-chief of the paper, Philip Ochieng, submits that the "only thing which stands in the way of The Kenya Times is its false identification in the public's mind with the ruling party, a fact which weighs very heavily upon it, many people claiming, despite absence of evidence, that it publishes only what the party and the government want it to publish" (154). But Ochieng's is a lone voice. Hachten (24) notes that in a one party state a party newspaper is often indistinguishable from a government paper. Kenyan newspapers do not have any ideological leanings that would differentiate them. Even in the case of the People the distinguishing factor is not so much ideology as the stories they choose to print possibly with the intention that such stories may embarrass those in the government. These often expose some of the corruption deals government functionaries may be involved in. And not too infrequently these stories have landed the people in legal trouble. One government minister has been awarded a total of Ksh. 60 million in court rulings. If these fines are executed then some of the newspapers may be forced to close shop. Possibly because of this Kenya Times has remained at the bottom of the ladder in terms of circulation figures, advertising revenue, operating capital base, trained personnel and influence amongst the major newspapers in the country. KTMT also used to publish a Kiswahili edition Kenya Leo. Kenya Leo was in many ways similar to Taifa Leo carrying a summary of stories in the Times .

Besides the national daily newspapers there are several weekly publications circulating in the Coastal town of Mombassa. Because they only focus on issues of the coast their readership is confined to the coast and they are hardly of any national influence.

An emerging trend in the Kenya media scene is the publication of what, in Kenyan terminology, is called the gutter press but would be best described as "now-yousee-them-now-you-don't" press. The sheets are sold on news-stands and often on street corners for less than half the price of the daily newspapers. They are poorly written, poorly edited, poorly laid out, poorly printed, and contain poor pictures. Generally they have no fixed address, no known publisher, and tend to focus on rumour sometimes making very spectacular claims. They have no clear frequency, will appear out of the blue, make some spectacular claim that regards either sexual or corruption scandal involving a prominent personality, then disappear. They may only occasionally write on current affairs. These are likely to be found in most major towns and in mainly the major languages besides English and Kiswahili. It is said that sometimes they are sponsored by politicians who use them to launch a smear campaign against their opponents. But there is no way of proving this. These papers have drawn the anger of the Kenyan government in no small way. As a consequence the government is moving to pass a Statute Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2001.

There has been a proliferation of other media in the country. The magazine industry has been vibrant not so much in its longevity as much as the frequency of magazines that have come up and gone under. The Weekly Review, probably the region's premier newsmagazine with a distinguished style of journalism during its lifespan was founded in 1975 (Abuoga & Mutere; Hachten). Published by Hilary Ng'weno's Stellascope, the weekly in the late 1970s and early 1980s had the best analytical and investigative journalism in the region (Faringer). As a consequence of its analytical reporting the government instructed firms in which the state had interest to cease advertising in the paper. This eroded the papers ability to survive economically. Later it toned down its critical re-portage and, in 1998 before it folded up, had become a mere shadow of its former self. Ng'weno chose to retire the title and focus on his other business interests including television. Financial Review and Economic Review , both now defunct, made a major impact in business journalism in the country until the former was proscribed and the latter disappeared from the news-stands in the latter part of 1998. Today, however, there is no towering news-magazine that would offer compelling reading like the Weekly Review did.

An interesting phenomenon is that in spite of the poor economy there has been quite an increase with diversity of media outlets in the 1990s that had not existed before. The changing political environment in the country with increased civil activism could be a contributing factor. Whereas previously the government could simply ban a publication with a single edict from the minister in charge, and this happened many times, the potential that such a ban would now be vigorously argued in court is much higher. A Nairobi businessman S. K. Macharia was, in the mid-1990s, through his firm Royal Media, licensed to operate Citizen radio and Television station. But he seems to have fallen foul of the government and his license to operate was temporarily withdrawn. He has got it back after a court petition, however, both his FM and TV stations are still off the air at the time of writing.

The church, through the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK), at one time had its own publications Target and Lengo publishing in English and Kiswahili respectively. Target , especially in the later part of 1960s and early 1970s was very analytical, an approach that often put it at odds with the Kenyatta government, but more specifically with the then Attorney General who accused the paper of having sympathies for communism. The paper, following an internal reorganization, seemed to lose its objectives and funding and finally in 1997 folded up. NCCK's verbal exchanges with Kenyan government have a long history. When they published Beyond again they ran into trouble with the government, when in its analysis of the 1988 general elections, the paper said that the elections were a "mockery of democracy" (Faringer 66). The government proscribed the magazine and imprisoned its editor. Most of the other publications that the church has been identified with published social issues and not news.

Economic Framework

De Beer et al (209) observe that "Africa's economic situation has declined significantly in the three decades of post-colonialism." While Kenya's economy grew steadily in the years following independence, the 1990s have been truly economically lost decade for Kenya. According to the Central Bank of Kenya after the economy contracted in the early 1990s it grew by 5 percent in 1995, by 4.6 percent in 1996 and recorded only a 2.7 percent growth rate in 1997. This fell further in 1998 to 1.6 percent before recovering minimally to 2 percent in 1999. In 2001 the economy grew by 0.8 percent.

Investment in Kenya fell 10 times between 1978 and 1998 from nearly (Kenyan Shilling) (Ksh.) 250 billion to a low of just over Ksh. 24 billion. In 1993 the country attracted a mere $2 million in investment. Although in 1999 over $42 million was invested in Kenya that pales in comparison to $183 million and $222 million invested in neighbors Tanzania and Uganda, respectively— countries that a decade and a half earlier found it nearly impossible to attract a fraction of what was being invested in Kenya. Today, Uganda produces nearly all the products that, less than a decade ago, it imported from Kenya.

There are several factors that account for Kenya's poor economic performance. Since the late 1980s, the country's political leadership took to rather rambunctious exchanges with diplomats accredited to Nairobi and officials on international financial bodies. It is at times difficult to understand who enunciates government policy on international relations. When it is to their convenience KANU leaders compete in making uncoordinated, often bellicose, statements on all manner of policy. The result is a public relations disaster. The abortive military coup against the Moi government in 1982 did not help either. But rather than address the eventual public relations damage the government sat on its hands. In the early 1990s, the country was ravaged by internal ethnic clashes and increased insecurity countrywide impacting tourism and agricultural sectors, Kenya's cash cows, negatively. The agricultural sector has performed dismally from a combination of factors including falling prices in the world market and neglect from the government. With less money in the economy domestic savings fell from Ksh. 106 billion in 1996 to Ksh. 61 billion in 2001.

The single biggest factor that has affected the Kenyan economy is corruption. In the 1992 general election the ruling party is accused of having printed money to finance the elections thus worsening the rate of inflation by nearly 60 percent. The involvement of the state in the business enterprise has not been helpful. It has especially been hurtful to the extent that it has eroded investor confidence in the economy. Some of the specific actions have been the government's sponsorship of politically correct banks, which were founded and run without reference to the appropriate banking regulations. Some of these banks collapsed with people's savings.

As a consequence the volume of trade at the Nairobi Stock Exchange has fallen. Between 1999 and 2001 about 140 investors pulled out of Kenya, 106 shut down their investments, 15 sold their investment, and nearly 20 were put in receivership. Over the same period, while the number of job seekers entering the market increased by one and a half million people, the economy only generated 30,000 jobs. Still the economic sector has been impacted negatively by government corruption, by the wear

and tear of infrastructure, and by the cessation of aid to the country by the donor community limiting the available hard currency for imports. The advertising revenue fell, in a country where over 60 percent of the economy is service based, the remaining 40 percent distributed between, industry, manufacturing, and agriculture.

More than 70 percent of Kenya's population 15 years and above is literate. Increasingly though more children are not completing primary education. Several factors account for this: high fees, inflation, lack of learning materials, labor disputes, poor pay for teachers and falling educational standards. The AIDS scourge is another factor. As many as 700 people die in a day as a consequence of AIDS related infections.

Kenya's is an oral society and the reading culture is yet to take hold. This is complicated by the high cost of books. The nation has a national library but it only operates in the eight provincial headquarters, some located more than a day's journey away. But they are also poorly equipped.

One out of every other Kenyan lives on just a dollar a day. With a newspaper costing about half a dollar few can afford it. Then with 45 different languages and papers published only in English and Kiswahili, language becomes yet another hindrance. The other challenge is infrastructure. The teledensity is only eight telephone lines per one thousand people (Lukalo and Wanyeki) although mobile phone systems are catching on fast. The road network is equally poor. Many of Kenya's far-flung districts are inaccessible at the best of times and impossible to reach during the rainy season. It is a near impossible task to distribute newspapers throughout the country. The postal system is another hindrance in the circulation of newspapers and magazines. Kenya does not have a home mail delivery system. This makes it difficult to develop a subscription base thus denying newspapers and magazines the opportunity to have a dependable readership and a pool of cash to draw from. The few subscribers often end up receiving their magazines long after the issue is already on the newsstands or may not receive it at all, the issue having disappeared in the postal system.

Kenya's newspaper publishers have their own distribution networks. The country has a paper-manufacturing firm, however, the Kenyan produced paper is expensive relative to imported paper. While the big advertisers may seek to influence the coverage of news that affect them the major influence on editorial policies usually come from politicians. Senior politicians seldom let pass an opportunity to cultivate a symbiotic clientele relationship with journalists especially those from their own ethnic communities. It is not uncommon for politicians to call journalists from their own tribe when they have a story to break.


Most reporters in Kenya are members of the Kenya Union of Journalists. Reporters with the government associated media ( Kenya Times , KBC, and the Kenya News Agency) are not allowed to join the union. The union has occasionally succeeded in negotiating better terms for its members. There are several organizations in the country that seek to bring journalists with common interests together. These would include the Kenya Education Writers' Association, the Kenya Professional Journalists' Association, the Association of Media Women in Kenya, the Network for the Defence of Independent Media in Africa, the Media Institute, the Association of Food and Agriculture Journalists, the Media Development Association, and the Kenya Correspondents' Association and Foreign Correspondence's Association. However, their effectiveness remains in question.

Journalism as a Career

Most journalists tend to negotiate their pay on an individual basis. While the annual gross national per capita income in Kenya is around $360, most journalists earn well above that per month. However, there is quite a disparity between journalists employed by the government and those working in the private media. Those working in private media earn far better that of journalists in the government controlled media.

Press Laws

Strictly speaking Kenya does not have a press law. Even what passes for press law is a carry over from the colonial governments' regulations in respect of press freedom. Critics have argued that the law, even if it was not good for the operation of the media, served the new rulers well by giving them a tool with which to control the media. What passes for media law in Kenya is a general section 79 of the constitution that states:

Except with his own consent, no person shall be hindered in the enjoyment of his freedom of expression, that is to say, freedom to hold opinions without interference, freedom to receive ideas and information without interference, freedom to communicate ideas without interference (whether the communication be to the public generally or to any person or class of persons) and freedom from interference with his correspondence.

There is nothing in the constitution that refers explicitly to the media. The section that seems relevant to journalism would be the clause referring to "freedom to communicate ideas without interference." However, such freedom could be withdrawn "in the interests of de-fence, public safety, public order, public morality or public health" according to Section 79 subsection (2) paragraph (a) of the constitution.

Parliament has just passed a Statutes Law (Miscellaneous Amendments) Bill 2001, which is awaiting presidential accent. President Moi has already signalled that he will sign the new bill into law. Briefly, the new bill will require any newspaper publisher to increase their bond from the present Ksh. 10,000 ($125) to Ksh. 1,000,000 ($12,500). A publisher who fails to comply with the requirement will be liable to one million shillings fine and up to three years jail term. A second time offender will be liable for up to five years' jail term and will be barred from printing or publishing a newspaper. The bill also criminalizes selling a book, a magazine or a newspaper whose publisher has not deposited the bond, has failed to file returns, or has failed to comply with the law in any form. The section of the law that the bill is amending is a carry over from the colonial laws, and it is interesting that the Kenyan legislators have chosen to make it more punitive that the colonial government did.

Kenya's judiciary is supposedly very independent. The President appoints all the senior members of the bench including the Chief Justice. They enjoy security of tenure and can only be relieved of their duties on incapacitation, on achieving retirement age, or on advice of a committee appointed to review a member's performance. However, Kenya's judiciary has lately come under severe criticism. Besides being seen as lacking independence from the executive, the general public tends to view the bench as corrupt. In a recent survey by Transparency International Kenyan Chapter, the public perceived the judiciary to be among the most corrupt institutions in the country, only a little better than the worst, the Police department. Members of the bench from the Commonwealth countries who recently visited Kenya told the judiciary to clean its act so as to restore public confidence.


The Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is charged with the task of censoring the media. But in reality media in Kenya have to deal with different departments, among them the Attorney General's Office, where newspaper returns are filed, and the Ministry of Information, which accredits journalists. But it is the sleuths in the Office of the President who scare the press most. While publishers are required to register a publication and file returns with the AG, most publishers often ignore the requirement either out of ignorance or for whatever other reason, at no cost. The AG will only follow up an offending publisher for reasons that may not be strictly related to the offence. For example in 1989 the editor of the magazine Beyond , Bedan Mbugua had published the magazine for a while without filing the returns and nobody bothered him. However, it was only when the magazine ran a commentary on the 1988 elections and said that the elections had been rigged that the government charged it with the violation. Obviously there were other magazines that were not following the regulation but since they had not rubbed the government the wrong way, the government chose to look the other side.

Although the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting licences journalists, many journalists operate without accreditation. However, the sleuths in the Office of the President can arrest or detain, without providing any reason, any journalist who publishes a story that they do not fancy. The Ministry of Information censors films and movies to ensure that they are keeping within the cultural norms of the country. But Kenya's biggest censors are the editors themselves seeking to be careful to avoid problems (Ochieng).

Kenyan journalists have not been proactive in putting in place a media council that would serve to receive and arbitrate complaints against the media. In mid-2002, the formation of such a council is in place, but given the Bill awaiting the President's approval, this council may not find much to do.

It is hard for a Kenyan journalist to walk to any official and get information that may be useful. It is often a frustrating experience for a reporter at an accident scene whose need may only be to confirm the number of victims injured. But the police would not speak, constantly referring the inquirer to the headquarters. While at the moment there is a Police Spokesperson, other government departments do not have similar positions and as such it is not easy to get information from them.

State-Press Relations

Kenya subscribes to the development communication paradigm based on the notion that given that the nation is a developing one then every agency in the country, the media included, should focus on development activity and not criticise those in power. Government officials would insist that the government welcomed positive and constructive criticism. But of course it is left to the government to define what is positive and constructive criticism. Over the years the freedom to criticize the Kenya government has greatly improved. In a recent cartoon published coinciding with the 2002 Oscar awards, the cartoonists gave several government functionaries awards. President Moi was awarded Best Director Award, but then the cartoonist changed his mind, crossed off the word Director and replaced it with Dictator with all the letters in upper case. The Nation carried the cartoon. It was quite a statement of how far the country has come.

The Kenyan government has not, however, always been tolerant. Publications that did not in the past please government functionaries were simply proscribed and sometimes this included past issues as was the case with Beyond , Development Agenda , and Nairobi Law Monthly Magazines. The Nation was, in 1989, suspended from covering Parliament, ostensibly for the claim of having been disloyal to the country.

Kenya has a news agency, Kenya News Agency (KNA), founded soon after independence and has, over the years, had offices and field reporters throughout the country. Graduates of government owned Kenya Institute of Mass Communication have almost automatically ended up in this outfit as field information offices where they effectively became the reporters in the field for the agency. Their assignment has been to file at least a story a week from their beat. This has provided an easy way to cover the entire country as newspapers and KBC could rely on KNA to cover the rural areas for them. But it has also served another purpose in that KNA reporters are trained to see news in the way that the government wants them to. So the stories are uniform. In the same way, for a long time, reporters from the newspapers were not allowed to cover presidential functions. Both the President and the Vice President have press units detailed to cover their activities. The press unit staffs have been KIMC trained and schooled in the government's way of presenting news. As Ochieng (43) puts it "We in the newspapers received only one interpretation of what the President was supposed to have said or done on any particular occasion: that of the Presidential Press Unit, relayed to us through the Kenya News Agency (KNA)."

Attitude toward Foreign Media

Kenya requires foreigners to have work permits. This does apply to international correspondents working in the country. The government issues accreditation to foreign correspondents whether they are working for international media or local media houses. An international correspondent would have little difficulty working in Kenya as long as they do not begin reporting on Kenyan politics in a manner that displeases those in the executive. That means always praising the executive. Both foreign correspondents and foreign reporters working for local media have been deported whenever they have written stories that did not please the executive. For instance in 1987, the government barred journalists from Sweden and Norway from visiting Kenya after papers in their countries had carried critical stories on Kenya's human rights record. Three years' later international journalists covering civil unrest in Nairobi's Eastlands district were detained and, after release, received threatening calls most probably from state security (Faringer 67). This is a fate that has fallen even on Kenyan reporters working for international press. A Kenyan Reuters correspondent was once picked up and held for nearly 13 hours for having filed a story to the effect that members of the public had thrown stones at the presidential motorcade. Local media reporters had been scared to cover the incident when the Reuters story began to print in the newsrooms. Philip Ochieng recalls how several editors from the Nation , including himself (he was a sub-editor then), were once detained for having attributed a story to an "anonymous" source.

Due to government repression of coverage of local issues Kenyans have, during moments of sensitive developments in the country tended to rely mainly on international news outlets especially BBC which broadcasts both in English and Kiswahili. Other channels include radio Deutsch Welle, Radio South Africa and Voice of America. Often people, even in rural Kenya, would tune to BBC Network Africa and Focus on Africa news programs for breaking news. There is a general feeling that the only trustworthy news items from KBC radio and television stations are death and time announcements; everything else is KANU propaganda. Conversely, there is a tendency to believe that everything on Kenya in international media is true. This is a consequence of the govern-ment's own control of the media. It would not allow dissenting views to be carried in the local press, would not allow opposition activities to be covered over KBC and would not allow civil unrest to be covered in the local media even when people are aware that something is happening in a part of the country. A reporter who broke the news in a KTN report that the then Health Minister, Mwai Kibaki, had defected from KANU to launch an opposition party lost her job.

While government has had little control of electronic media it has at times sought to control international print media by confiscating the issues that are shipped to be sold in the country. These would be when such media have stories written on Kenya that the government did not like. All Kenyan media houses subscribe to international news agencies mainly Reuters, AFP, AP and Gemini. Prior to the end of the cold war Kenya was a member of the non-aligned nations and subscribed to news agencies associated with the movement. Through arrangements with the then USSR's TASS it made it possible to access a pool of stories from other third world capitals.

Television stations in Kenya also relay international news programs from western stations. KTN for example relays CNN international news while KBC sometimes relays BBC news bulletin and Deutsch Welle television news. However, when these stations carry a story critical of Kenya then the relays of that day may be left out. Kenya does not have restriction on foreign ownership of the local media. Until the launching of Kenya Times the print news media in Kenya were foreign owned with the exception of the Stellascope publications owned by Hilary Ng'weno. Even the Kenya Times at one time was co-owned by British media mogul Robert Maxwell.

Broadcast Media

For a long time the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) dominated Kenya's electronic media scene. Formerly the Voice of Kenya, the station, founded in 1927, runs a nation-wide television service, two radio channels broadcasting throughout the country, in English and Kiswahili, and 16 regional ethnic language stations (Abuoga & Mutere 100). Today, it also has FM station covering the city and is planning another FM station for the Central Province, home to the populous Kikuyu community. KBCTV's news presentation format has always been predictable especially in the last decade and a half beginning with the 1982 attempted coup. The lead story has been on the president's activities including Sunday church attendance. The radio has not been any different.

Although KBC is publicly owned in the same format as the BBC with its budget drawn from the Treasury, the government exercises control in the appointment of management to ensure that KANU receives favorable coverage. KBC's television station broadcasts throughout the country in both English and Kiswahili. Its 7:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. news bulletins are in Kiswahili and English respectively. It has two parallel radio stations: the general and national service broadcasting in English and Kiswahili respectively. KBC, through its other regional stations, broadcasts in 12 other regional languages.

However, this reporting style has been nominally challenged by the launching of other stations. These stations, six in all, have not challenged KBC's dominance significantly. Other stations launched recently include KBC Channel II a subscriptions only cable network whose main shareholder is a South African firm, MultiChoice; Citizen TV, Nation , Family, and Stellavision. These stations, except the Nation TV, due to constitutional, financial and logistical limitations, have not been able to compete appropriately in news coverage. While Nation TV, with its financial muscle, could offer the biggest challenge to the two stations it is licensed to broadcast only in Nairobi. Its application for a nation-wide broadcast has been pending government approval for nearly a dozen years now. While it is not clear who the main shareholder in KTN is, it is understood that it is owned by the publishers of the Standard who are part of the Kenyan political establishment (De Beer et al 229).

Television has not made an impact in Kenya's countryside (Mytton; Ochieng; Bourgault; De Beer et al). To start with, the cost of a television set is prohibitive for rural people. A 21-inch colour television plus a VCR, for example, would cost at least five to 10 times the official average income of a primary school teacher. As a result television is a low priority for rural population that can ill afford it.

Owning television is complicated by another factor: the rural electrification programme. Most of the rural areas have little access to electricity. Rural folk run their televisions on batteries and solar systems. They can only receive KBC and even then the reception is often poor. Television is sadly still an elite media. Even in terms of content they tend to cover only urban events. Ochieng dismisses television as being of little communication significance to Kenyans for two reasons. He says, "Television, is out of reach for the majority of the people because it is urban-oriented and urban-based and because TV receivers are too expensive. Secondly, both television and radio deal with selected ideas which have to do with the strengthening of the security and integrity of the state, and not necessarily with social enlightenment as such" (108).

Most Kenyans have greater access to transistor radio receivers. Transistor radios today are cheap and available at nearly every street corner from hawkers. J.B. Abuoga and A.A. Mutere and G. Mytton suggest several reasons that make the medium popular. These include the low rate of functional literacy, the poor economy, the poor communication network, transport system and the people's lifestyles. Experience indicates that the largest single groups of media consumers in the rural are the teachers and agricultural extension workers (Wilcox; Quist). They are comparatively well educated, have a regular monthly income, are more interested in current affairs and are often opinion leaders. However, most schools are located in far-flung regions that are inaccessible so that this one single large market does not have an opportunity to buy newspapers. The alternative is mainly the radio.


The government knows only too well the strength of this medium and used it for political expediency. The government is familiar with the daunting task anybody who wanted to reach the entire country has. Only radio can reach all these people. Unconcerned with the language and distance barrier of the newspapers, the radio reaches the Maasai in his manyatta, the Somali herdsman in the outback in the north and the expatriate in his air-conditioned Nairobi home, all at once. To monopolize access to these people the government controls the radio. The initial FM radio stations to be licensed were allowed to broadcast only in the capital, Nairobi.

Overall there are at least six radio stations licensed to operate only within Nairobi. Apart from this there is the Family FM radio and Television station in Nairobi, but this is a religious broadcast relaying primarily religious content. Another station worth note is Kameme in Central Province that broadcasts in Kikuyu. However, its broadcast does not include news. Recently in an answer to a question in Parliament the Information Minister said that over 30 licenses for FM stations had been issued. But generally they would be given to politically correct individuals some of who would be holding them only for commercial speculative gain.

Electronic News Media

All the major news houses are available on the Internet. The Nation newspapers, the Standard newspapers, and KBC web pages are updated daily. The Nation web-site has searchable back editions going to 2000 while the Standard has only up to a week. They are, however, not indexed. The EastAfrican is also available online. Although Kenya Times is online it is seldom current. Both

the Nation and KBC websites are much easier to navigate. The KTN website had not been updated for the first six months of 2002.

Education & TRAINING

There has been, in the last couple of years, an increase in the number of universities starting departments of communication and journalism education. Besides the School of Journalism at the University of Nairobi, that has been in existence for the last two decades, other public universities such as Kenyatta, Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology, Moi, and Maseno all have either courses or departments of communication or journalism being developed. The same is true for private universities. Probably the oldest department in the private universities is at Daystar University, which began, in the late 1970s, offering graduate degrees in communication theory. The department expanded beginning in 1984 when it launched undergraduate communication courses with tracks in print and electronic media, public relations, and communication theory. But now there are departments of communication or journalism at United States International University-Nairobi and at the Nazarene University. There are also smaller colleges and institutes that offer training in media and other associated areas of interest. For example there is a school recently launched in Kenya in memory of the late award-winning photographer Mohamed Amin in Nairobi specialising in television journalism.

The Kenya Institute of Mass Communication for a long time was the main training institution for Kenyan journalists. It offers nine to 12 month courses in print and electronic media leading to certificates and diplomas in journalism. Philip Ochieng, one of Kenya's brightest journalists, complains of the calibre of Kenyan journalists lamenting their training. While Ochieng's comments may be true as far as they apply to the period he was writing about, a case can be made that the situation is greatly changing so much so that the problem now is getting employment for many Kenyans trained in journalism and mass media.

While the number of the institutions and courses being offered continue to rise, the same can not be said of the faculty, the literature, and academic journals. In many instances it is difficult to find teachers for the courses that are being offered leave alone finding people who are going to conduct research in mass media.


Moi has towered Kenya's political scene since the late 1970s and greatly impacted the direction the media took both through his relations with the media and the policies that his government put in place. His legacy will continue to influence the direction the media take. During Moi's presidency the executive reigned supreme, but there is just a glimmer of hope that some of the powers the office enjoyed will be trimmed in the new government. However since some of those poised to take over are a carry on from Moi's system, the question looms regarding what direction the system will take. Kenya's media has, through the last decade, developed muscles that may come useful in a new dispensation. The personnel are at the moment more educated that at any other time. The civil society has greatly become more active, more critical of the judiciary, and more demanding of the legislative.


Abuoga, J. B. and Mutere, A. A. The history of the press in Kenya . Nairobi: ACCE, 1988.

Ainslie, Rosalynde. The Press in Africa: Communications Past and Present . London: Victor Gollancz Ltd., 1966.

Ayittey, G.B.N. Africa Betrayed . New York: St. Martin's Press, 1992.

——. Africa in Chaos . New York: St. Martin's Press, 1999.

Barton, Frank. The Press of Africa: Persecution and Perseverance . New York: Africana Publishing Company,1979.

Bourgault, L. M. Mass media in Sub-Saharan Africa . Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press, 1995.

Boyce, G. "The Fourth Estate: The Reappraisal of a concept." In George Boyce, James Curran and Pauline Win-gate (Eds.) Newspaper History from the 17th Century to the Present Day . London: Sage, 1978.

Church of the Province of Kenya. Rabai to Mumias . Nairobi: Uzima, 1994.

De Beer, A. S. Kasoma, F.P. Megwa, and E. Steyn. "Sub-Saharan Africa". In John C. Merrill (Ed). Global journalism: Survey of international communication 3rd Ed. New York: Longman, 1995.

Faringer, Gunilla L. Press Freedom in Africa . New York: Praeger, 1991.

Githii, George. "Press Freedom in Kenya." In Olav Stokke (Ed.) Reporting Africa . New York: African Publishing Corporation, 1971.

Hachten, W. Muffled drums: The news media in Africa . Ames: Iowa State University Press, 1971.

Hachten W. "African censorship and American correspondents". In Beverly G. Hawk (Ed.) Africa's media image. New York: Praeger, 1992.

Maloba, W. "The media and Mau Mau: Kenyan nationalism and colonial propaganda". In Beverly G. Hawk (Ed.) Africa's media image . New York: Praeger, 1992.

Mwaura, Peter. Communication Policies in Kenya . Paris: UNESCO, 1980.

Mytton, G. Mass Communication in Africa . London: Edward Anorld, 1983.

Karimi, J. and Ochieng, P. The Kenyatta Succession . Nairobi: Transafrica Book Distributors, 1980.

Ochieng, P. I Accuse the Press: An insider's view of the media and politics in Africa . Nairobi: Initiatives Publish ers, 1992.

Quist, M. Step Magazine Readership Survey or Are We Really in Step? Nairobi: Daystar Communications, 1982.

Wilcox, D. Mass media in Black Africa . New York: Frederick Praeger, 1975.

Levi Obonyo

Also read article about Kenya from Wikipedia

User Contributions:

Such an awesome and informative piece of writing,as a communication student kudos to you all for the Job well done.
Rosemary Nyaole
What a thought provoking and incisive piece of writing! I've gained immensely from your wealth of knowledge. Keep the candle burning.
I love the article, it has tried to show how mass media has grown in the history
A great article, but the issue on press laws and how they have grown could have beeen delved more into.
Frank David Ochieng'
HI5 sir,
This is a very well researched piece. The Media in Kenya, could not be put in a brighter perspective, the change in times notwithstanding.

It is a powerful, authoritative and thought-provoking article. I must say the author did his homework perfectly.

This is a very inspiring paper and I must confess, it has cultivated a seed in me that some day, when I will be harvesting the fruits, I will not forget to attribute my source of inspiration.

Frank David Ochieng'
Mass Communication & Public Relations Lecturer
i want this information to be transfer to my mail box
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rita nwatu
a very good write-up.keep it impacted my life and helped me in writing my assignment.Thanks
Thank you so much... This is so encouraging. You should include more information on magazines and other genre in print media
Mapesa Godfrey
Nothing but kudos for the nice idea.Good work and make more detailed.
great work continue providing such informative pieces on the state of media and other topics
Elizabeth Lundi
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mustafa abdullahi
a good write up it has realy helped me because it has informed me alot about kenya.thanks and continue
teddy tinga
nice work!!
pliz if you can transfer this article to my email
A thoroughly researched work! I have enjoyed reading this writeup and learnt a lot about the history of the Kenyan press. I would like to suggest that a revised edition be done if possible to cover the recent changes in the media, including for instance, the disputed media law. Otherwise the trip down memory lane was interesting with some hilarious examples of the operations of the then dominant broadcaster. Kindly send me a copy.
Migosi Oluoch-K'Osoreh.
As a student of Communication Studies, I appreciate this piece of work. However,I kindly request if I can be assisted to get a similar piece of detailed work on "The History & Evolution of Indigenous Newspapers in Kenya" with their authors, years of publication,and the specific agenda and population target with such publications.
caroline were-okundi
i have found the article to be very insightful and resourceful.since instructional material on the history of the mass media in kenya is not readily available,the article to me has proved to be a mine of resource.kudos to the writer.
caroline were-okundi
communications tutor
alphax college,eldoret,kenya
This article is quite educational,I will be commenting laterafter reading the whole of it
All this informatics is very informative and helpful. But how recent are your statistics, just in case i want to use the somewhere. Thank you
I realise that the information is so educational and can be used for posterity,in order to establish the events sarrounding the mass media in kenya.However as Jeanete has suggested above, I would request that you keep updating your statistics especially as pertains the population and also the economy.From 2001-present we have n glimpse of how the economy has been doing.

Otherwise this is good work,with potential to impact communication students and lectures in all continents,keep it up.
Thax a lot sir,i really like our article,keep on researching so that you can give us updates on media and changes made.
I would like to thank the editor, I know form what ihave read iam not going to be the same again.
congrats for such a good and educative research, u'v assisted many including myself. kudos
This article couldnt have come at a better time,even with the number of years its been posted.Thank you for the indulged research.
A good piece. Keep up informing us on this crucial areas..
This is absolutely marvelous! A masterpiece,well researched work that has really aided me with my coursework as a Journalism N Communication student.THNKS
i am left to wonder what is left in store for me(as an upconming journalist) and what i will do to to see that the media industry grows for the better. only time will tell...
Good research. Any updates as of today? I would like to know a bit of the traditional mass communication in Kenya. The drums,smoke etc.
Can someone update this very important document? i would also like to hear the history of mass communication in the 50s and 60s- smoke, drums etc.
This gives us a clear understanding of the Kenyan Media, Thanks for all who have worked towards this.
iwould like to congratuate all media houses in kenya for the far they have taken this country kenya.n.b as far as am concerned have been in this field for more than 9years in public and am also good in talking on behalf of citizens and giving out hot news which some of this news have never been spoken or heard by any media house,ilve in utawala [embakasi]

If we would like to post an add in the Kenyan newspaper, what are the rates, how to book & how to pay?

Please provide these details that would help us to perform the job add postings in the Kenyan newspaper

Thank you so much!
This is a great work 4 our kenyan media,congaks who ever do this work {exellent}iam motivated by this as a young journalist.pliz this to ma email.
This information is very educative and as a journalism studet i have learnt alot about my area of study,i want this information in my E:mail
As an upcoming journalist i'm glad to read this information as it has made meto have more passion in taking journalism as my carreer in life to disseminate more information to help my country Kenya developed plz e-mail me this information
Thank you for you well researched paper. time and events have changed since then and its my feeling that you keep on updating the paper. otherwise do more on media policy in Kenya, their influences and effects to the Kenyan economy.
nevertheless, congratulations.

Daniel obuya- Information sciences student at Moi University.
The paper is so intresting and useful to me. May u plese forward it to my email if possible
I like this article as it highlight on what is very difficult to find elsewhere kudos to the team involved. Keep up with the good job
njeri muhoro
i think this is an invaluable contribution to the study of the mass media in Kenya. thank you for making it available.
james mwilaria M
You are leading the pack with such an incisive research focused article. It is a torch we shall use to find our way into media research and development. For a journey to begin, there must be a whistle blower.You are one!It is an article that is impeccable;without a particle!
Lillian Anyango
I have enjoyed the information already and I'm just starting to read it! Good job I'm sure I will gain much!
This is good work. please help me get data on Kenya's economic survey from 1963 to 2010
What an educative article, as a communication student this an impressive insight for me -kudos
jane kwamboka
athman soban
this information is quite interesting but shallow to some extent. I am proud to have gotten the actual information i was looking for.
maina wangeci
kevin lichoti
Nice article to upcoming journalist like me.Do you offer internship?

Fredrick Maritim
I really appreciate for your artical which is so interesting and very motivative especially we the future aspiring makes us expand and sharpen our minds as future journalists. >Media science student Moi University.
Brown Dauglas
Excellent information,please give us all the news concerning media.Good job.
everline okewo
Imust say i'm impressed with this research on media.M.A student in comm, Maseno University
Joseph Hongo
Quite an exceptional piece. MA student Maseno University
that is a quite good piece of information you have really helped a lot for those who didn't know
maranga wyclife
the article is well researched.what if i have article , how can it get published? am a student in nibs college thika road and also looking for attachment
Patel Mulevu
Excellent information. Are the laws used to regulate the Kenyan media respected in Kenyan courts? since there are no amended Kenyan laws for the media?
Daniel Mbevo
So far how many newspapers do we have in kenya?
Answer please in possible...

An Information Scientist at Moi uni Main campus(1st yr)
What media celebration was recently precedede by president Uhuru Kenyetta at KICC, when he cited several media feilures?
Can only remember it was same day when Johnson Mwakazi officially left Rayal Media Group
lrine kisaka
This a great article,it has been of great help to me,l appreciate your work...Multimedia student
Jane muthanwa
I really like that article! its very interesting and informing at the same time.
A media student
Makokha Khaoya
The article is well researched, an eye opener for those like me who are doing their reseach on elecronic media. Kudos for the writers
This is a balanced study on the subject, do more of it. can I be assisted to get an updated statistic of internet users and Tv to date. thank you
Nathan Masambu
Thank you for a well researched article on Kenya news media horizon. It can even be more fulfilling with a little updating. I think we have six daily news papers including Taifa Leo. 1.The Star,2. The Daily Nation,3.The Standard, 4.The People Daily,5.The Business Daily and Taifa Leo. Thank you.
The media in Kenya is a diverse and vibrant growing industry. Relations between the mass media and the Kenyan government have been tense and the question of controlling or rather gagging the media has been lingering in the minds of every regime, simply to suit their own interests. The central argument here is that the relationship between the mass media and the state in Kenya is unlikely to improve unless two conditions are met. First, there must be commitment on the part of the state to democratic governance and recognition of the legitimate role of the media in the promotion and protection of democracy. Secondly, there must be a vibrant civil society that is capable of obstructing attempts by the state to encroach on the rights and freedoms of the public, including the freedom of the press. The political orientation in state society relations in Kenya since independence has been characterized by a determination by the state to control society. This approach, which is underpinned by an authoritarian ideology, resulted in a culture of fear rather than trust and respect for the state.
The relations between the state and the mass media in independent Kenya continues to be uneasy. The state has continually accused the press of being unpatriotic and bent on serving the interests the western nations, at the expense of the interest of Kenya. This line of argument has often been necessitated by the media’s coverage of what the political establishments consider to be negative news about Kenya. According to this line of thought, the media should champion only the positive things about the positive things about the nation and ignore the less acceptable ones. The media on the other hand accuses the state of undermining its freedom and rights to educate and inform the public on matters of public interest by articulating both the good and the bad. This conflict has intensified, particularly since the advent of multiparty politics in the early1990s. In a nutshell, the Kenyan media has come from far and if destined far. But for the purposes of greediness, every administration comes in to make their own recommendations in gagging the Media freedom. I stand to be corrected where necessary. Thank you
Silas Mae Saro
Well-reached work. So terse an article it is. It has enriched my knowledge, touching on the very areas I wished to know about. Be blessed.

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