After the election of Hugo Chavez as the revolutionary leader of the people of Venezuela, a cabal of conservative generals plotted and executed a coup against his government.
The coup was however thwarted and foiled by a single, independent radio station that gave the people a voice by letting them call in and say what they thought of the coup and its perpetrators.
In the wake of popular and determined disapproval, the coup could not but collapse, clearly demonstrating brave media can topple evil and dictatorship from power.
The power of media over dictatorship is also summarised in the Kikuyu proverb that the gazelle does not hate whoever sees it but the person who calls people to it.
But has Kenyan media, like the Venezuelan radio station, been calling people to the evils or grueling poverty, oppression, tyranny and exploitation that beset them daily?
Kenya has many enemies that media can fight. Merciless capitalistic exploitation of the people disguised as corporate development, dictatorship that refuses to go away, corruption that has become the bane of the country and negative ethnicity that eats into our unity ensuring we never unite and forge ahead together.
The truth is that Kenyans cannot fight their above enemies without a voice. Unfortunately, only very few people are given a voice by the Kenyan media. Most people have in fact given up writing even letters to the editor because they are never published.
Equally, people cannot fight their economic, political and social problems without knowledge and information that they can only access via media.
To many media organisations, however, that information and knowledge must never rock the boat of those in power and is therefore omitted, sieved and sanitised to ensure it does not make the leaders and the rich look bad.
As the Bible says, however, without knowledge, information and vision, people can only stagnate and perish. Without the knowledge that better things are possible, people will accept and endure an oppressive status quo as divinely ordained.
In fact, the media not only fails to seriously criticize the status quo for its weaknesses and harm to the people, it goes out of its way to protect the status quo as the only condition of life possible.
According to opinion polls of Ipsos Synovate, it may be that the media is rated as the most-trusted institution in the country, but it is also the one single institution that does most to mis-educate the people, misinform the people, mislead people and abandon people into total darkness.
In fact, the only reason the people will trust the media most is because they are so emasculated intellectually that they have no capacity to fathom how the media is used by its owners to undermine their interests.
To understand the media’s role in any society, we must understand who owns it and ask whether it is possible for the media to champion interests of the people if they don’t in any way own it.
If views and opinions are shaped by interests, we must assume that the media will serve the interests of their owners before those of the people. This is irrespective of how much the media will portray themselves as champions of the people.
That the media will always serve interests of their owners is not news.We must remember how our leading print and public media supported colonialism when it was in power, how print media for a long time supported one party dictatorship and how all our media organisations have been lukewarm in fighting corruption and negative ethnicity that have their beneficiaries and disciples in media houses.
Instead of fighting to change and improve society, a lot of times, the media feeds people with opium like soccer, alcoholism, sexual lewdness or outright pornography, and beer that is promoted as a booster of manhood.
There are even times when the media has sold people outright poison like negative ethnicity and war propaganda. A bad media will give people poverty of ideas that will in turn create material poverty and bad leadership that Kenyans complain about every day.
The media makes sure we have bad leadership by limiting choices of leaders that people may choose from. For instance, however committed to the status quo, Kenyans are always urged to choose between, Uhuru Kenyatta, Raila Odinga, William Ruto and Kalonzo Musyoka.
By constantly offering these four persons as the only ones that may lead Kenya, Media guarantees that Kenyans will never have leaders of change because all the above are leaders and champions of the status quo.
However, the media offers Kenyans choices of bad leaders, not to protect and advance interests of the people but because media owners are certain, whoever wins power, any one of these leaders will protect interests of rich leaders, rich class and media owners all who belong to the class of the propertied.
By offering people bad leadership, the media is also blind to its own interests and those of its owners. When bad leaders like Adolf Hitler, Idi Amin and General Pinochet acquire power, truth, media and its owners will be its first casualties unless they agree to toe the line and hail tyranny.
It is tragic but the media does not support people’s match to the promised land. Because an economically empowered population would be difficult to exploit, media would rather have people languish and rot in the desert of poverty.
Poor people are always easier to manipulate. Rather than take them to the promised land, the media would rather lead people back to the enslavement of Egypt.
Ultimately, an enlightened media must serve both interests of its owners and those of the people because, liberated people are the bedrock of their future security.