KenyaÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s largest media company, The Nation group, has laid off over 100 staffers as it prepares to venture into the West African market later this year, writes Dennis Itumbi.
The group runs four newspapers, two radio stations and a television channel, and plans to enter Ghana in June. Senior management sources confirmed that the December layoffs are part of a wider strategy to maximize output.
Several well-known journalists in both the print and the broadcasting sections have been given letters sending them home "for their inactivity and laxity" but most of them argued that the criteria used were unclear.
"We should have been given a chance to defend our record. We have made our name though hard work and some of us are being accused unfairly," said one of the senior journalist affected.
However, Owino Opondo, the Group Chief Regional Training officer said, "every company has a set of standards and it is individuals who must give way for those goals to be achieved, not systems."
He added: ÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã…â€œThe Nation is currently training a group that will easily fill any gaps left as a result of the layoff, besides we are getting into Ghana in June and we want to be ready, by making sure our resources are going to the right places."
Among those shown the door is Emmanuel Juma, the head of TV,Ãƒâ€šÃ‚Â a celebrated journalist.
The move to lay off staff comes as journalists continue pleading with President Mwai Kibaki not to proceed with the Communications Amendment Bill, which, among other measures, bars cross-ownership in media houses. This provision is likely to affect the Nation more than any other media house.
The bill also authorizes the Communication Commission of Kenya to control programming and the Minister for information gets powers to raid media houses and seize equipment "in the interest of national security".
The Nation GroupÃƒÂ¢Ã¢â€šÂ¬Ã¢â€žÂ¢s daily newspapers are The Daily Nation, Business Daily and Daily Metro, its weekly paper is The East African, and it also runs two Radio Stations, Q FM, and Easy FM, together with a television channel NTV.