Information, Communication and Technology Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru on Saturday admitted to receiving direct pressure from President Uhuru Kenyatta to clear the Ksh2.5 Billion bill owed to media houses for advertising.
Speaking during the editors’ convention at Kempinski Hotel, CS Mucheru assured that he was working day and night to ensure that the debt was paid.
Mr Mucheru said, “We are working very hard to pay the debt. I know that is the elephant in the room. We face pressure from above and from you. The president always reminds me to ‘finish with the media’,” he conveyed.
His remarks were echoed by ICT PS Fatuma Hirsi who added, “The media debt is on my desk and we’re doing everything possible to pay it in a proper way.”
Nation Media Group CEO Stephen Gitagama urged the government to pay the debt as it had crippled the operations of some of the media houses.
“I urge the Government to pay its media debt. The State must uphold its obligation to promote media freedom. Free markets cannot thrive without a free and robust media. We must safeguard the sustainability of this industry,” he noted.
Speaking during the event, US ambassador Robert Godec lauded the convention describing it as an opportunity of promoting free and independent media in Kenya, to take stock of what has happened and further defend freedom of the media.
He further announced that the US embassy, had in 2018, offered a grant of Kshs20 Million to editors guild to help promote freedom through training.
Earlier on, CS Mucheru revealed that the debt spanning three years could not be cleared since Treasury had not disbursed the money.
The DPP had ordered a probe into the debt where Standard Group is claiming Ksh931 Million while Nation Media Group (NMG) is demanding Kshs835 Million.
Mediamax Network Ltd is seeking to recover Kshs462 Million for the financial year ended June 2018 while Royal Media Services (RMS) and Radio Africa Group want Kshs60 Million and Kshs423 Million respectively.