On behalf of the Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, welcome to our first Media Engagement Forum. Thank you all for making time to attend this event, we hope that our constructive engagement continues in the years ahead.

What brings us together? Attending this event today are people from different backgrounds: we have human rights defenders, lawyers, religious leaders, and members of the press. We all have different backgrounds, and have different ways of seeing the world. I’d like to believe, however, that we all pursue common interests and aim to achieve a common purpose. We are all bound together by a common humanity and that we have a duty to affirm this humanity in each other.

I would like to acknowledge the presence of the media today.

The media has been a key player in the history of this country, especially in Kenya’s movement for democracy and human rights. The role of an objective and vibrant media environment which is accountable to the Kenyan people is more important now more than ever.

In this event today, I’d like to acknowledge the presence of human rights defenders working to address violence and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. These human rights defenders work in the areas of documenting human rights violations, addressing the religious concerns of sexual and gender diverse communities, economic empowerment, and advocacy at multiple levels.

The work that these human rights defenders do is crucial to the wellbeing and even survival of individuals whose sexual orientation, gender identity and expression does not conform to society’s expectations. Many of these expectations are influenced by what members of our society see on television, hear on radio, read in the newspaper, and interact with on the internet. This is where you, members of the media: journalists, practitioners, and representatives from media enterprises, come in.

We need to move the conversation about sexual and gender diversity forward. The kind of society we have today is different from the society we had in the past and will be different from the society of the future. I am sure we can all agree that the society of the future, based on the work we do today, will be one that promotes the human rights of all people, that respects diversity, and that affirms our collective pursuit of happiness.

The media has the power to change perceptions and mould viewpoints. What is reported and how it is reported is important in shaping opinions within the Kenyan public. This is an immense responsibility that has to be exercised with the public good in mind.

As GALCK, we have seen the link between inaccurate and biased media reporting and acts of violence, incitement, and discrimination on grounds of sexual orientation, gender identity and expression. The wrong word, the inappropriate photo, and the poorly researched bit of information can mean life or death for persons whose sexual orientation, gender identity or expression does not conform to societal expectations.

To be clear, neither GALCK nor its partner organisations are asking for skewed or biased reporting. What we ask is for the media to extend to the LGBQ community the same fairness and objectivity that they are known across the world for. None of this is new or foreign. In fact, many of the members of the press here today prescribe to the standards set by the Code of Conduct of the Practice of Journalism that forms part of the Media Act.

Ours is an invitation to the media to engage with us in creating a more vibrant and impactful media environment in our country. We extend to you, media practitioners, our helping hand whenever you are in need of commentary, assistance, and advice in your reporting on our issues. We need to reflect the true nature of the people of this country: our hopes, our aspirations, our fears, no matter who we are.

We are all in this together.