EDITORIAL: Our core values remain steadfast at all times

Friday March 30 2018

 

By The EastAfrican
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As with numerous other communities in the world, Kenyans have taken to the digital ecosystem with extraordinary exuberance.

However, not many of these have been as vociferous and loud in making their views heard — ironically in a country where the democratic space is in retreat.

Social media has opened the floodgates of not just reasoned discussions, but also, and most woefully so, the most arrant nonsense.

It is a far cry from the traditional space where there was one speaker and many listeners.

Kenyans, so empowered, have used their newfound power to question the old authorities, including those in the media, such as this media group.

This is a welcome development because progress comes not from acquiescing but challenging the dominant ideas of the day.

Which is why the new excesses of communication and contestation on forums such as Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp can only bode well for the country.

However, this is also the age of change, of relativism — even in values and principles — a time of moral pragmatism and instrumentalism in which corruptly obtained wealth is often praised and successful school dropouts venerated.

In this age, a consistency of values, an insistence on prudence and moderation, are clearly out of step with the popular culture of mediocrity and exaggerated flattery.

Independence

It is why ideologically- and politically aligned writers, individually privileged to have a forum to freely discourse with the public without any editorial or proprietorial interference whatsoever, can collectively try to arm-twist a platform to deviate from its declared position of independence.

Nation publications are not opposition publications. Neither are they government publications.

They are independent publications. Since its formation in 1958, the Nation Media Group has had a core set of consistent values, which will be published elsewhere in our platforms and which guide our operations throughout the region.

Central to those values, and the purpose for its establishment, is a mission to be a trusted companion to young African democracies, a champion of the ordinary person in his/her interaction with the government of the day, a voice for the rule of law and respect for human rights, including the rights of minorities, and a strong advocate for open but caring free market economies.

Indeed, as an institution, the Nation has commercially prospered and become a dominant media player by standing for the values of truth, fair play, balance and accuracy.

East Africa
The Nation is also unashamedly an advocate of regional integration.

The peoples of East Africa are closer than is suggested by the lines drawn on a map by our erstwhile colonial rulers.

East Africa is a stronger player on the global scale when it presents itself not as different small countries but one region united by common values and interests.

Its economies are better off when they are open to each other, allowing citizens access to a bigger market for their goods and services.

At the same time, a big regional market is more attractive to foreign investment than small, national ones.

Internally, Nation platforms — newspaper, digital or broadcast — are independent and aspire to the highest degrees of professionalism, accountability and transparency.

Ethics

Journalists are expected to be accurate and fair and to offer a correction when they are wrong.

They are also expected to respect the privacy of individuals and show a sense of humanity, particularly for those who are grieving, and not to intrude unless there is a matter of great public interest.

The processes that result in coverage are open to colleagues and decisions are made after exhaustive discussions.

Editorial independence is a cardinal principle: Editors are forbidden to take news decisions on the basis of instructions from any party, whether internal or external.

They are required, at the risk of serious disciplinary action, to judge stories purely on their own merit and to exercise their conscience strictly on the basis of the Editorial Policy.

This is not say that Nation does not make errors or drift away from the ethical path it has set for itself.

Criticism

Any organisation is capable of being wrong because it is run and operated by human beings.

True nobility is achieved when organisations have the humility and discipline for self-examination, admission of error and course correction.

Often, however, the Nation is held to a higher standard, and rightly so.

Because of its size and refusal to pander to partisan whims, it also comes under near-constant attack by interests of various shades that, at times, shamelessly manipulate social media in an attempt to undermine its credibility.

Is it right for Kenyans, and East Africans, to expect institutions such as the Nation to pander to the ebbs and flows of politics and popular culture?

Shouldn’t they be allowed to retain their role as consistent compasses pointing to the right direction in the debate about important national values?

It should be expected that leaders and sections of the public will often change their opinions about things, construct new realities and strike out in totally new directions.

However, it is not always the case that everyone will immediately follow, though that does not mean antagonism or support for those who oppose such a new idea.

Every individual has the right to make up their mind, in their own time, what to believe, what not to believe, who to follow and who not to follow.

That is the benefit of living in an open, democratic society.

Improve
Finally, the Nation is duty-bound to keep its offering relevant and interesting and to address the public wherever it is — on traditional or social media.

In executing this public responsibility, the Nation pledges not just to remain true to its values, but to improve the quality of its products and further entrench its standing as a true champion of people’s rights.