The handcuffs around the fourth estate (commentary on recent media blackout in Kenya)

During the Medieval times, there were classes of political spheres that were segregated in Europe. England used to have the nobility, the clergy, and the common people. The fourth estate came by where groups which were unofficial in nature needed to be distinguished from the rest since they also wielded some power such as the mob and public press.

Edmund Burke. Thomas Carlyle, writing in Heroes and Hero-Worship in History :" , Lord Brougham in 1823, and English essayist William Hazlitt are the pioneers that were attributed to this term of ‘the fourt estate’

The fourth estate was also referred to the battery of lawyers who delivered services and bribed their ways out of justice for the rich to circumvent the rule of law for the rich. In this new era and generation, since the 19th Century, all types of media combined have now adopted the _FOURTH ESTATE _ name as their references. as the fourth power, the press or rather the journalism profession is has indirect power that should be independent from bias and external influence.

As opposed to the free will of the society, the fourth estate has turned out to be a political tool to oppress the society or to gain political favors as the freedom the press has been thrown into the gutters of dictatorships. it will thus be ironical to call the press or media as the fourth Estate especially here in Kenya where a few weeks ago, the powers of impunity tore it apart using state resources and total disregard to the freedom of the media.

Recently in Kenya, the true media gag fiasco was seen when the current regime shut down almost 10 tv stations and radio because of a mock swearing in ceremony of the opposition leader Raila Odinga as the people’s precident(yes the oath was so fake that you could see that it was administered by lawyers that is commissioners of oath and he was not sworn as the president of the republic of kenya.

One Could wonder if the Government was in a panic mood or if it was for the safety and future protection of any violence that could have been instigated by the event. Many people remained in the darkness but thanks to social media and the internet some could live stream the event while others could be sent videos from the ground. It is quiet empirical to note that were it not fr the many businesses that an internet shutdown could do to the economy, it is very true that the Government could have catigated the same.

The Rule of law is quite clear and national interest and the public interest should not be somehow navigated in order to oppress the protection the law has input for the fourth estate.

When Trump called the USA edia as ‘fake news’ etc, that seemed to be a political tackle but it also applies here in Kenya where the media is complaining of being oppressed while it is also the source of fake news forgetting that the sword is double edged ad the doctrine of equity in regards to clean hands. There have been sympathisers of the media being gagged while others have also alluded the state for the same since its the same media that propagates irrelevant and biased news when it comes to the oppression of people.

Some months ago the media focused on a man who had queued in a voting line in Nairobi, kenya during the general elections and the fuss was that he was eating a maize and bean mixture known to the locals as ‘githeri’. However absurd it may seem, some critics applauded the media that it brought the kenyan people together which was kind of true as the craze was in most social media platforms. The media here went against professionalism in my opinion as there were a lot of human rights atrocities that occurred during the general election that the media seemed not to bother.

The arbitrary exercise of power by subordinating it to well-defined and established laws goes against the spirit of constitutionalism as the government does so with utter disregard forgettin that Law is supreme and is above every individual as the Magna Carta became its holy grail. The media however irrelevant, biased or fake deserves to be independent and proected by the law.

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Hi Kevin! I’ve been enjoying reading your long form blog style posts to our forum - thanks for taking the time. Having spent some formative childhood years in Kenya myself and remembering the days when every newscast began with “His excellency Daniel Toriotich Arap Moi today opened a school…” or some variation, I had been impressed and happy to see how Kenyan media has modernized and improved over the years. Also to see how politically active, knowledgeable and savvy Kenyans are, as quite apparent on twitter!

@nashmeister Its interesting to read the very insightful post above. I strongly believe in the media freedom and this is a right enshrined in our Kenyan constitution in the bill of rights article 34. I also believe in ethical media that is accountable to the consumers of their information. As a Kenyan I have noted that the media are partisan and are divided along ethnical lines and I kept praying that the electioneering period passes faster as I could not watch the news in peace as everyone had become a political analyst with a bias opinion. Well this is my personal observation but still this did not warrant the gagging of the media and disobeying of court orders by the state.

On the Githeri man for those who might not be knowing him his photo attached below:

His photo went viral due to a reality show for socialites in Kenya where one of the characters claimed she does not eat “madondo” beans which is a common delicacy in Kenya. One Kenya posted the photo on social media and Kenyans on twitter made it go viral mocking the character. The Githeri man was a breather for many Kenyans like me on social media that were tired of politics. Photo like these made me smile during those tense moments

This trend online attracted the mainstream media to highlight his story and this was his life changing moment as corporates, politicians and goodwill Kenyans tried to help him change his life after him changing their moods and putting a smile on many Kenyans during a trying moment for the nation.

As a former media practitioner I still believe that there is some few ethical media practitioners out there. Sometimes the news aired might not make sense to us why the bizarreness but that is what makes news

“What constitutes news?” “If you should see a dog biting a man,” replied Dana, “don’t write it up. But if you should see a man biting a dog, spare not money, men nor telegraph tolls to get the details to the Sun office.” source ‘Dog Bites a Man’ Is Not News. ‘Man Bites a Dog’ Is News – Quote Investigator

Lastly, I believe the media should exercise some caution when reporting on issues that are sensitive and that could further polarise the nation as we witnessed the role of the media in Rwanda genocide, and the Kenya post election violence that began on my birthday 2007. Nevertheless, media freedom should be respected.


This “man bites dog” quote is fabulous - thanks, Mustafa! You brought a smile to my face with that one. :laughing:

I also really like the Githeri man anecdote - I had heard about it but not really fully understood th story. I can see how it must have cheered up many Kenyans during the election.


I love that quote also. Many people didn’t notice why he became a hero to may as he provided comic relief thanks to the tech-savvy youth who took to photoshop to make him trend:

The githeri man took the internet by storm as he was photoshopped into different scenarios; He brought about much needed comic relief. If felt like an eerie calm before a storm.

The photoshop experts went to town with the image and soon the githeri man was photo bombing celebrity scenes around the world. There he was with the Nasa principals during a presser. Celebrating with the Shujaa rugby team in Singapore, with Jeff Koinange on JKL, in the white house with Obama, disembarking from Airforce One behind Trump, on mount Rushmore as one the sculptured heads among the founding US presidents, hanging out with a Kardashian. Source:


Media has a great role to play when it comes to the actualization of Right to Access Information. As the fourth estate, they are solely responsible for showing the local Mwananchi ‘citizen’ what the Government is up to. They are supposed to hold accountable the Government and ensure that the citizens are up to speed with ongoing events such as Investigation of scandals and follow up of crimes and progress of service delivery. They should also highlight injustices and whether something is being done about it. Media should ensure that whatever they do should be free from bias and that is where the whole issue comes in. Media tends to be biased in political lines and as a result forget the power that they have. Media will always play victim when their ‘friends’ turn to ‘foe’. A good example of how powerful the media is, is when the Kenyan Media declared a Media blackout on the then former Minister for Information , Hon. Pogishio and these greatly affected his political career. The Media should reclaim back their power, become more professional and avoid partisan behaviour.