Title

Press Law Debate in Kenya: Ethics as Political Power

Document Type

Article

Publication Date

1-1-1997

Abstract

Journalists in many African countries have long been caught between differing ideals i n their relationship between press and government. Two models vie for dominance-the western, libertarian and development journalism models. This article uses Walzer's (1983) theory of distributive justice to illuminate the ethical significance of this debate. A t issue is political power. A case study of the 1996 proposed press law i n Kenya illustrates the ethical arguments mounted for each press model and how the arguments are marshaled not necessarily for moral purposes but to gain political advantage. Finally, a viable third alternative avoids a false dilemma between the libertarian and development journalism models. Communitarianism preserves the independence from government SO central to the libertarian model while providing a basis for activist journalism.

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