The Media Council of Kenya (MCK) has weighed in on Football Kenya Federation’s (FKF) move barring some accredited journalists from covering FKF matches.
Kenyan press recently settled on having a blackout of FKF top-tier league matches, following reports the Federation has stationed policemen at entrances with specific instructions to bar certain journalists and reporters from accessing the venues.
In a statement dated Tuesday, December 14, MCK insisted FKF’s move is illegal and unconstitutional, arguing complaints against media houses or journalists should be reported through the Media Complaints Commission.
MCK also slammed Kenya police for ‘enforcing illegal orders’, saying Media Freedom is disturbed once a journalist is stopped from covering matches.
MCK also supported the move by the media to suspend FKF coverage.
“FKF being a public body will always be scrutinized by the media even if they are uncomfortable,” said part of the statement.
On Monday December 13, the Standard Group PLC stopped coverage of all FKF Premier League matches until the local FA stopped muzzling the media as the boycott of the league entered a second day.
FKF started by refusing to accredit Standard Group print division reporters and photographers, locking them out of all FKF Premier League matches, Harambee Stars Africa Cup of Nations qualifiers and international friendlies.
During Harambee Stars matches, FKF declined to let into the stadium Standard Sports team citing COVID-19 protocols. On November 28 during the AFC Leopards versus Tusker clash, a Standard Sports photographer was ejected from the Kasarani Stadium and had to contend with taking photos from the perimeter fence.
FKF, however, said yesterday that the accreditation process for Standard Group reporters had started and they will receive their cards next week.
On Saturday, December 12, a section of journalists were barred from covering the match between champions Gor Mahia and military side Ulinzi Stars.
Both clubs have declined to endorse a broadcast deal the FKF signed with StarTimes, which they say is flawed. FKF has also suspended two other clubs, Zoo FC and Mathare United for refusing to endorse the deal they say was not negotiated without them being consulted.
The International Sports Press Association (AIPS) President Gianni Merlo said the global sportswriters’ organisation will defend the independence of journalists especially during this period of Covid-19 pandemic.
“We have to fight against these otherwise such officials will use the same system to offer accreditation only to journalists that they like and lockout those critical to these officials,” Merlo told press.
“It is necessary to fight for our rights because if we accept the officials’ logic, then they will continue to harass journalists. We have to take every action to defend our profession,” Merlo said.
Melo said that Covid-19 pandemic had given sports officials “an excellent opportunity” to deny journalists access to competitions.
“It is more important now than ever to have journalists in the stadiums to cover matches where spectators are not allowed. It is important to be on location rather than watch the match on TV and report,” Merlo said.