Top Kenyan media houses have decided to cut ties with the Football Kenya Federation (FKF) and the Betking Premier League over what they termed as unfair treatment of journalists.
Led by Nation Media Group (NMG) and The Standard, the media houses stated that they will work to ensure that the fundamental rights and freedom of their journalists is upheld.
The latest move comes after various journalists were barred from accessing the Nyayo National Stadium to cover the League game between Gor Mahia and Ulinzi Stars.
“Nation media group has decided to withdraw cross-platform coverage of all Betking Premier League matches and any activity related to the Football Kenya Federation. This is after NMG journalists were barred from gaining entry to the Nyayo National Stadium to cover the league match between Gor Mahia and Ulinzi Stars on Saturday by policemen under instructions by the FKF.
“The move continues until normalcy resumes with journalists granted access to the Leagues and other public engagements by the federation” read a statement by NTV’s Mark Maasai during the Sunday night bulletin.
NMG’s editorial director Mutuma Matthew has maintained that the group will settle for nothing less than the upholding of ‘our journalists fundamental rights and freedom”.
On their end, The Standard Group has also called called on “FKF to stop interfering with journalists’ work forthwith”. According to the media group, FKF has time and again treated their journalists unfairly and denied them a chance to cover events.
The Standard also revealed that FKF uses the Covid-19 protocols as an excuse to lock out journalists it regards ‘unfriendly’ to it.
“This was not the first time that FKF was targeting journalists (Blocking them from accessing Nyayo Stadium). It has blacklisted and denied Standard Media Group print journalists and photographers accreditation for months to cover both the national team Harambee Stars and Premier League matches as well as the federation’s activities, including the presidential elections held on October 17” read a statement by Standard.
“It is the responsibility of journalists to inform the public and it is the role of media houses, not FKF, to choose who should do that”.
The Standard has now called on FKF to table any grievances it might have against journalists and various media houses.
“Instead of kicking journalists out of football pitches, FKF should table whatever grievances it has against them through the right channels such as the MCK, Media Owners Association, Kenya Editors Guild, Kenya Union of Journalists, Kenya Correspondents Association, Sports Journalists Association of Kenya or even the courts of law” it said.
FKF has also been criticised by the International Sports Press Association (AIPS).
AIPS President Gianni Merlo said the organisation will defend the independence of journalists especially during this Covid-19 period as they strive to give information to the public who are not even allowed to attend sporting events.
“We have to fight against these otherwise such officials will use the same system to offer accreditation only to persona grata, or journalists that they like and lock out those critical to these officials,” said Merlo as quoted by Nation Sports.
“It is necessary to fight for our rights because if we accept the officials’ logic, then they will continue to harass journalists. We have to take every action to defend our profession” he added.
Defending league champions Gor Mahia also complained that their media team was barred from accessing the stadium and could therefore not give a stream to their game against Ulinzi as they had earlier promised.
“Our sincere apology for not streaming the match on YouTube as earlier announced. Our crew have been locked out” posted Gor on it’s official social media accounts.
The Sports Journalists Association of Kenya (SJAK) through Secretary General Mike Okinyi has also supported the move by the various media houses.
SJAK has insisted that the independence of the media must be upheld at all times.
“The Sports Journalists Association of Kenya is in receipt of complaints from journalists on the conduct of Football Kenya Federation,” read’s a letter from SJAK to the Media Council of Kenya.
“The SJAK executive had an emergency meeting and resolved to seek intervention from the Media Council of Kenya. For the second week now, journalists from various media houses have been barred from covering the league.
“The worst case was on Saturday, 12th December, where a selected few were allowed at the Nyayo National Stadium to cover the match between Gor Mahia and Ulinzi Stars.
“After consulting the editors as well, SJAK’s position is that the media council should stand with the editors in giving a blackout to the league until this matter is resolved. The independence of the media must be upheld at all times. We would like to know what rules are being applied by FKF in locking out journalists,” SJAK added.
FKF is yet to give an official statement on the same.