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Visions of the African Press in Colonial Kenya: What the Nationalists Imagined
Unformatted Document Text:  19 widely published, so have the smaller, African-run Kenyan papers largely been ignored. When they have been recognized in the literature about the African press, they have all been lumped together as subversive. While it is true Kenyatta edited a newspaper, his vision appears broader than providing only radical dissent. That the vision of the press as existing only as a means of conspiring to overthrow the government appears to be untrue. While some extreme newspapers may have called for such action, many others occupied more stratified roles. The history of this press suggests how Africans began to come together in a newly imagined community and what the role of newspapers was in that process. The press provided Africans a place to voice their opinions and report news of their own communities. It allowed them to develop a sense of self-confidence in their own abilities to produce such publications. It gave Africans a chance to imagine new communities with new boundaries that went beyond a single ethnic group or race. It gave them a chance to build political awareness and publicize political activities, and finally, it was a place where Africans demonstrated to themselves and the colonial government that fines and jailings were not enough to stop their demands for justice. Defining the correct role for the Kenyan press continues to be a source of contention even today. That is why it is important to acknowledge that the African leaders once saw their publications playing various positive roles. Admittedly, this study is limited in that it relied on what the leaders said the press was like and their words might not have reflected how the press actually behaved. Future research would compare the actual content with the visions delineated here. Nevertheless, understanding these views is important because it provides a roadmap for thinking about how the Kenyan press could ideally function, rather than how it may actually perform. These visions of the press counter the contention that the African colonial press illustrates the only the disruptive threat of an unbridled media. That interpretation has helped provide the current government justification for harassing, censoring and even shutting down

Authors: Wall, Melissa.
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19
widely published, so have the smaller, African-run Kenyan papers largely been ignored.
When they have been recognized in the literature about the African press, they have all
been lumped together as subversive. While it is true Kenyatta edited a newspaper, his
vision appears broader than providing only radical dissent. That the vision of the press as
existing only as a means of conspiring to overthrow the government appears to be untrue.
While some extreme newspapers may have called for such action, many others occupied
more stratified roles.
The history of this press suggests how Africans began to come together in a newly
imagined community and what the role of newspapers was in that process. The press
provided Africans a place to voice their opinions and report news of their own
communities. It allowed them to develop a sense of self-confidence in their own abilities
to produce such publications. It gave Africans a chance to imagine new communities with
new boundaries that went beyond a single ethnic group or race. It gave them a chance to
build political awareness and publicize political activities, and finally, it was a place
where Africans demonstrated to themselves and the colonial government that fines and
jailings were not enough to stop their demands for justice.
Defining the correct role for the Kenyan press continues to be a source of
contention even today. That is why it is important to acknowledge that the African
leaders once saw their publications playing various positive roles. Admittedly, this study
is limited in that it relied on what the leaders said the press was like and their words
might not have reflected how the press actually behaved. Future research would
compare the actual content with the visions delineated here. Nevertheless, understanding
these views is important because it provides a roadmap for thinking about how the
Kenyan press could ideally function, rather than how it may actually perform. These
visions of the press counter the contention that the African colonial press illustrates the
only the disruptive threat of an unbridled media. That interpretation has helped provide
the current government justification for harassing, censoring and even shutting down


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