OFAB Kenya convened its annual Media Awards Gala on September 15, 2023, where commendable achievements in scientific reporting were acknowledged. This event was uniquely hosted, taking place in both physical and virtual settings, with live broadcasts on YouTube. The in-person Gala attracted attendees, with a leading presence of and other important stakeholders in the realm of agri-biotech.

The Kenyan government lifted the ban on genetically modified organisms (GMOs), a move that faced strong opposition from anti-GMO activists. The key issues of concern were inadequate public participation and safety worries. This highlighted the crucial role of journalists in providing accurate science-based information to both the public and policymakers regarding advancements in agricultural production. OFAB Kenya has been actively engaged in raising awareness and educating the public on this matter.

Dr. Margaret Karembu, who serves as the Director of ISAAA AfriCenter and also chairs OFAB-Kenya, in her remarks recognized the challenge of misinformation and acknowledged the Africa Science  Dialogue portal, a platform aimed at combating misinformation and disinformation by providing credible information. Journalists were encouraged to register on the portal for access to experts and high-quality images of agri-biotech projects. Overall, she emphasized the importance of media in shaping public opinion and countering misinformation through credible sources.

Ms. Anne Muia, a senior biosafety officer at National Biosafety Authority (NBA), in her remarks, discussed the National Biosafety Authority’s involvement in educating and creating awareness to the public. She stated that NBA gives the public an opportunity to participate in decision making especially before the introduction of a new product (i.e. environmental release). Amidst misinformation and disinformation, she emphasized, “Most risks or fears are based on perceived risks rather than actual risks”.

Dr. Jackie Kado, Executive Director of the NASAC, who was the Chief Guest emphasized how the awards contribute to the advancement of accurate science journalism and inspire the media to place greater emphasis on agricultural biotechnology reporting. She mentioned the importance of the Kenyan media in realizing national development objectives via its provision of a platform for dynamic knowledge exchange and dialogues related to critical economic sectors. Furthermore, she pointed out that NASAC was introduced as a collaborator in advancing science, technology, and innovation, specifically emphasizing the media’s responsibility in sharing scientific knowledge to the public. During her address, she tackled the issues posed by misinformation in the digital era, specifically in the context of agricultural biotechnology, and urged for cooperative endeavors to address this problem. 

Madam Miriam Rahedi, Director of the Directorate of Public Communications and Broadcasting at the Ministry of Information, representing Prof. Edward Kisiang`ani, the Principal Secretary of the State Department for Broadcasting and Telecommunications remarked that, “There is need to unpack science well for the `mwananchi`”.

Categories for submission included print and online (newspapers, magazines, and online), radio, and television. During the event, Brygettes Ngana and Sam Doe from Nation Media Group was crowned the overall winner while Hellen Asewe Miseda from Standard Media Group and Sammy Waweru from Daily Nation, Nation Media Group took the first runner-up and second runner-up award respectively. The trio received plaques, certificates of recognition, and cash prizes in acknowledgment of their honors. The winners will now represent Kenya at the OFAB-Africa Media Awards.

For more on this and other biotech developments in Africa, contact Dr. Margaret Karembu at mkarembu@isaaa.org.