Over 200 journalists have benefited from the Health Reporting Grant, an initiative by the Media Council of Kenya, to aid them in covering COVID-19 related stories.
This is the highest ever recorded number of beneficiaries from the organisation, in a funding aimed at cushioning journalists affected by the pandemic, to be able to continue telling the stories that touch directly or indirectly on COVID- 19 pandemic.
The Initiative Supported by Open Society Initiative for Eastern Africa (OSIEA) in partnership with the Media Council of Kenya (MCK) aims to spur reporting on COVID-19.
The initiative saw MCK-accredited journalists get grants ranging from Sh 1,000 to Sh 25,000 to facilitate their reporting and coverage of the COVID-19 pandemic in Kenya.
Speaking today while unveiling the beneficiaries through a Virtual Press Conference, MCK Chairperson Kimani Muiruri noted that the COVID- 19 Virus has hit the media industry hard and had a negative effect on the work of journalists who now need financial and technical support to tell the story.
Muiruri said that the grant which was initiated before the virus set in was quite timely adding: it is indeed a great thing to aid and fund journalists to be able to continue telling the much needed stories.
“We are excited to see to it that journalists are facilitated to carry out their work in this situation of daily lay off of journalists as well as salary cuts. COVID -19 has forced not only the media industry but also many other industries as well to ground to a halt,” he noted.
The Chair further noted that even more stable media houses have had to close shop or lay off staff with over 400 journalists estimated to have lost their jobs for reasons related to the pandemic, making the situation worse.
“This grant came as a relief to such journalists facing hard economic times and will aid them to do stories that would impact many as well as create awareness on the pandemic,” said Muiruri .
He further noted that this is a great opportunity for journalists and communicators to research and communicate the necessary factual health messages to the masses and expected those who received the grant in the first and second phases to continue telling the health stories in a big way.
He noted that the council is aware that many journalists who received the grant may not have newsrooms to go back to with their stories but called on Editors in newsrooms to still give them a platform to file their articles.
Also speaking during the virtual conference was MCK Council member Susan Karago who said that the council is keen on intervening on ways that stories will continue to be told, adding that they will offer mitigative assistance on a need to need basis.
“ The industry has been hit hard, we will stretch as much as we can to ensure that journalists are financed to write and submit interesting and responsive health stories that impact the communities,” said Karago.
Media Council of Kenya Deputy Chief Executive Officer and Programmes Manager Victor Bwire had earlier in the year called on Kenya to establish a Media Diversity Fund.