President Moi yesterday said the media played a crucial role in the social economic development of the country. But he cautioned that a biased media had the potential of igniting ethnic hostilities that could dismember it.
He said this when he officially inaugurated the Nation Printing Press on a 10-acre plot along Mombasa Road in Nairobi.
He switched on the Shs.750 million ultra-modern German made printing press at 11:50 a.m. He was met on arrival by His Highness the Aga Khan and Vice-President George Saitoti. The Aga Khan is the principal shareholder in the Nation Group.
President Moi told local journalists to make Kenya their first concern because they had a powerful tool which should be used for the country's good. He called on the media to be objective and impartial, because prejudice could easily ignite ethnic hostilities.
He welcomed constructive criticism saying the government would continue to acknowledge criticism that was well intentioned and fair. He said it was untrue for the foreign media to claim that there was less press freedom in Kenya.
He said it took Europe 200 years to develop its present level of democracy and said Kenya after 30 years of independence should not be rushed into change without taking into consideration its people's aspirations.
The President said for Kenya it will take time to attain the type of democracies that have evolved in some of the countries in the western world.
He said the government has set the year 2020 as a deadline for Kenya to be fully industrialised. He said necessary machinery had been put in place and encouraged the growth of foreign investments.
He said 50 percent of shares in the Nation Group were in the hands of Kenyans and asked other foreign investors to seek the participation and partnership of Kenyans.
He said the government had started repair and rehabilitation of roads in Nairobi and other major towns at a cost of Shs. 13.4 billion. He said the development of the road network is now open to the private sector.
The Aga Khan said the media should avoid what he termed "the siren of sensationalism and sectarianism" as a way of building short term readership and profits.
He said newspapers should be written and edited with concern for social cohesion and with a sense of moral standards.
"It is always tempting to focus on the divisive, the dramatic, the diverting - that quick and easy way to popular success," he said. He added that in the developing world, there is need for the press to focus on central serious issues.
He quoted Canadian publisher Conrad Black on the role of a publisher. He should maintain standards of fair reporting, and consistency of opinion, support journalists when unfairly attacked, prevent any faction from hijacking the newspaper, order retractions when they are required and give the newspaper a personality."
The Aga Khan predicted that His firm would continue with innovative investments in Kenya. "There will be new facilities, more precedent-shattering projects and more ground braking," he added.
He said the African continent cannot be left behind in technology as others had predicted, saying those who had invested less in old technologies have the potential to propel themselves quickly into new technologies.
The Nation board of directors Chairman, Dr. B.M.Gecaga said they were waiting for television and radio licenses from the government.
He said these two areas are of vital concern for investment and hoped the authorities would grant the licenses.
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