A free media is both the foundation and the cornerstone of democracy.
Without it, there can be no government by the people, for the people. Governance becomes a sham.
Indeed, a free press is the very heart and soul of democracy and its twin virtues of accountability and openness.
Without it, nations reverse the clock hundreds of years and legitimise repression. It means no institution holds the government to account even when its top leaders resort to despotism and corruption and guileless looting of the population.
INTO THE GUTTER
Besides, gagging the media is the first step towards that dangerous slide down into the gutter of civilisation.
A lot of damage has already been done, all in the span of less than a week. But the battle is far from over. Indeed, the struggle to reclaim it has just began. And it will gather pace without a doubt.
Free media have never been darlings of governments, especially those that seek to throw the veil of secrecy around the faces of its citizens.
In a free world such as the one Kenya belongs to, the idea ought never to have been contemplated. It is insidious and simply unacceptable.
That it even crossed the minds of politicians is, in itself, sufficient indictment that the leadership has taken the course of ruin.
That a law setting Kenya firmly on the path of regression into the era of darkness was passed when the TV feed was disconnected, indicates that the bell tolls not just for the media, but also for freedom, democracy, governance and life as we have known them.
It means that the blood that was shed on the streets of our towns to reclaim the right to know and the right to a free press was all in vain.
It means the sweat and tears that characterised this struggle count for nothing.
It means the poor can die of hunger in the villages and of illness in the cities, but the world will never get to know, because a government agency controls what can be said and what cannot.
It happened in Ethiopia in 1984. It took the courage of one Kenyan journalist to break that shroud of silence that had, up to that point, led to the needless deaths of millions of men, women and children. Kenya just took the first step in that direction.
THE RIGHT TO KNOW
The political leadership must be reminded that media are not their own masters. They are accountable to the public.
They exist because the people have invested their right to know in a free, independent and private press. This was no accident of history. It was deliberate.
Media may have rubbed authorities the wrong way… inevitable in the era of scandals. But clampdown is no cure. There will only be darkness â€” and probably death.
One of Americaâ€™s founding fathers Thomas Jefferson once said â€œthe only security of all is in a free press.â€ Parliament just took away that.
Adapted from the Daily Nation.