60% of Kenyans surveyed said they have heard politicians criticizing journalists or the news. This makes Kenya the leading country in political criticism of the media. The data is part of a broader report titled “Reuters Institute Digital News Report 2023”.
However, the media criticism is not unique to Kenya. Across all countries surveyed, politicians were the most frequently cited source of news media criticism.
As if foreshadowing what was to come, the release of the report was followed by a media attack from Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria on Nation Media Group.
Of those surveyed globally, 42% said they had heard media criticism within the last year. This was the proportion who claimed the criticism was from politicians. In addition, 40% stated the media criticism was from ordinary people.
From the data, one-third of the markets ranked politicians as the number one source of media attacks. That was 16 out of the 46 countries that were surveyed. The media was exposed to political criticism mostly in Kenya, Turkey, Hungary, and the United States.
Kenya led the list with 60% followed closely by the United States which had 58%.
The reports stated that criticism can sometimes become vitriolic. Indeed, we witnessed vitrolic media criticism from Moses Kuria.
Political Criticism Affects Media Trust
The report finds that media criticism is likely to undermine trust in media and news sources.
Based on the research, the lowest levels of media criticism are often in those countries with higher levels of trust, such as Finland. Indeed, countries with high degrees of political polarisation registered low trust levels in the media.
This included countries such as the United States (32%), Argentina (30%), and Greece (19%).
However, this makes Kenya an anomaly. In Kenya, trust in news is at a high of 63%. This is an increase of 6%. Moreover, trust in news in Kenya was the second highest among the countries surveyed. Kenya came second to Finland with 69%.
In terms of where people see or hear media criticism, Social Media at 49% was cited the most. Again, this mirrors recent events in Kenya where Twitter was used.
Advertisement Revenue as a Political Tool
Press freedom in Kenya is enshrined in the constitution. The current political administration regularly claims that the media are biased against them.
We have witnessed the Communications Authority of Kenya, threatening to revoke the licenses of media outlets that report on anti-government protests organised by the opposition.
Furthermore, harsh economic realities faced by the media are used to silence them. As a major advertiser, the government is a key revenue source for media outlets. The report claims an estimated US$17m is owed for advertising services already rendered.
The report states that the government uses the financial carrot to exert political elite pressure on media houses. ICT Chief Administrative Secretary Itumbi alluded to the same recently via Twitter.