- We shall be having weekly briefs soon so that we can field questions from both the media and members of the public.
- We look forward to making government more open and transparent with regards to access to information as enshrined in Article 35 of the Constitution.
Good day dear reader.
It’s been a week since I was appointed to be the fifth government spokesman by President William Ruto and his deputy Rigathi Gachagua.
This is a very great honour indeed to serve in this capacity as the face and voice of government.
It’s a clear indication of the confidence that the appointing authority has in me.
I salute my predecessors Dr Alfred Mutua, Mwangi Muthui, Erick Kiraithe and Col Cyrus Oguna, for their past contributions in this docket. I look forward to learning from them as I begin my tour of duty.
Having served in various capacities both within the Executive and the Legislature, I believe that I have what it takes to steer the office going forward.
I have the requisite credentials in public communications and policy, development, coupled with the political skills to go by.
I am not new to many Kenyans and therefore it will be my duty to break down information by the government from what I call ‘governmentese’, to what the common mwananchi understands.
There has been a great information gap between what the government is doing, vis-à-vis what is reported the in the media.
There is also the not-so-good relations that the government has had with the mainstream media, emanating from the fact that independent research showed that 67 per cent of the coverage given during the last general election went to our competitors.
However, both the government and the mainstream media need to work together since both need each other in terms of government having to communicate its policies, programmes, activities and interventions to the masses, who eventually are the ultimate voters on one hand.
The media also needs government due to policies, laws and regulations governing the sector, including the fact that the government is the biggest advertiser. There is thus a symbiotic relationship between the two.
The government doesn’t expect to be criticised, as this is a preserve of the fourth estate.
However, balanced and fair coverage is also paramount since there are at least two sides to a story.
That objectivity has indeed become blurred in recent times.
My role therefore is to help bridge the gap in between, for us to have a mutually beneficial relationship.
As someone whose first job in government was in public relations, I hold the view that my role as a spokesman is to ensure that people understand the government, its intentions, why it took a given action, and to generate news from within.
I believe that this is very critical to the future of our country’s development.
My office which is under the Executive Office of the President, Cabinet Affairs and Head of Public Service, will be instrumental in helping to coordinate how the government will be communicating going forward.
This shall include all ministries, departments and agencies.
Politics is about perception and perception is a production of communication.
In the end, the residual information that shapes the opinion of the voter is the ultimate goal of any savvy communicator.
It’s easy to criticise the government because essentially, the government belongs to nobody, but the opposition belongs to everybody, yet somebody must be accountable to everybody.
Every Kenyan wants to derive value from his taxes and from those who have been given the responsibility of exercising power on their behalf.
My office will thus be open to engaging all forms of the public that are currently being reached by both the mainstream and new media, including bloggers.
It’s disconcerting to note that there is a huge group of demographics that seem disconnected from the mainstream of society.
This group of Kenyans could account for the eight million Kenyans who failed to exercise their franchise during the last general election.
Further, the government doesn’t seem to have properly adapted to this new reality, that of lack of a clear focal point for news information, convergence and dissemination. On the other hand, mainstream media is losing its grip, especially the aggregation advantage that it has enjoyed traditionally.
A lot has changed ever since my office was created under the Kibaki administration way back in 2003. Media has morphed from largely print and radio to more digital video and other content.
This means that there is a need to be more adaptable to these market trends, including the fact that the concentration lifespan of the audience has also shrunk due to information overload from multiple sources.
My office will thus be keen to learn and institute new ways of relaying both information and feedback from the public.
We shall be having weekly briefs soon so that we can field questions from both the media and members of the public.
We look forward to making the government more open and transparent with regard to access to information as enshrined in Article 35 of the Constitution.
As George Bernard Shaw aptly observed, “the challenge of communication is the illusion that it has happened”.
The writer is the government spokesperson of Kenya.