The Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ), in collaboration with the International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), conducted a two-day seminar titled ‘New Organising: Freelance Journalists and Trade Unions’.
This event was part of the Union To Union (UTU) Project 2023, aimed at building union power for democratic rights, media freedom, and decent work. The seminar took place from October 23 to 24, 2023, in Nairobi, Kenya.
The seminar brought together 20 freelance journalists and the executive members of the KUJ. The aim was to discuss the challenges facing freelance journalists in Kenya and develop strategies for recruiting more freelance journalists into the union.
Eric Charles Odour, the Secretary General of the KUJ, welcomed participants and announced that the KUJ has opened its doors to all freelance journalists.
He stated that changes were made to their constitution in 2016 and further amended in 2020 to allow more freelance journalists and correspondents to join the KUJ. He added that KUJ has set a target to increase its membership by 2024.
Winnie Kamau, the President of the Association of Freelance Journalists (AFJ) in Kenya, highlighted that many freelance journalists lack resources like cameras and recorders for their work.
She also mentioned that contracts with media houses are often not honoured, leaving freelance journalists without the power to negotiate better pay for their stories. She added that female freelance journalists often face sexual harassment from sources on the ground.
Pa Louis Thomasi, the Director of the IFJ Africa Office, emphasized that freelance journalists are often too detached from unions due to a lack of awareness about the union’s mandate and capacities. He urged freelance journalists to join the KUJ to end their exploitation by media owners.
He also called on the KUJ to include freelance journalists in their safety programs and continue providing them with legal assistance.
The seminar covered various topics, including the working conditions of freelance journalists in Kenya, gender equality and ILO Convention 190, the safety and security of freelance journalists, freedom of association, the right to organize and collective bargaining, challenges facing female freelance journalists working online, and designing campaigns for recruiting freelance journalists.