New printing press a rededication of Nation’s ideals, says Aga Khan


His Highness the Aga Khan and Nation Media Group (NMG) chairman Wilfred Kiboro unveil the plaque during March 17’s official launch of NMG’s new Sh2 billion printing press on Mombasa Road. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE

Nation Media Group’s founder, the Aga Khan, said Thursday the company’s new Sh2 billion printing press represents a rededication to the ideals that led to the establishment of the media house 56 years ago.

The Aga Khan said the role of an independent media house such as the Nation Media Group, whose flagship brand is the Daily Nation, had become “more important than ever” with rapid changes in the media landscape with the growth of technology.

“As we often do at milestone events — in our personal lives as well as in our institutional lives — we think today about our dreams of the past and our hopes for the future,” he said during yesterday’s commissioning of the new press at Mavoko, Machakos County.

“Milestone moments are times for celebration — and they are also times for rededication,” said The Aga Khan at the event that was attended by Information secretary Joe Mucheru, Machakos governor Alfred Mutua, Nation Media Group chairman Wilfred Kiboro and the company’s chief executive Joe Muganda.

The first edition of the Daily Nation was published on March 20, 1960, with the goal of creating an independent news medium that Kenyans could use to tell their own story. 

“Our goal was not to tell people what to think — but to give them reliable information so that they could think, more clearly, for themselves,” said the Aga Khan.

But things have certainly changed since then and since the last upgrade of the printing press 18 years ago.

The Aga Khan described the new press as a technological marvel that can print 86,000 copies every hour, meaning it takes less time than its predecessor to put out the thousands of copies of the Daily Nation, Taifa Leo and the Business Daily and regional weekly publication, The East African.

The machine also offers advertisers better quality platform to reach consumers, coming with the ability to print 80 full-colour pages.

For the Nation Media Group, it means a paper that is able to get to the market on time and with the ability to create editions with content that is relevant to specific audiences.  

READ: NMG’s digital plan takes shape as new press starts rolling

Over the past 10 years, websites, bloggers and social media have amounted to a multiplication of media voices, the Aga Khan said, resulting in a wild mix of messages that are both good and bad, confusing and even conflicting.

“On top of that, this is also a time when public emotions — and political sentiments — are intensifying and even polarising all over the world,” he said.

“The result, some people say, is that we live in a “post-fact” society.  It’s not just that everyone feels entitled to his or her own opinion — that’s a good thing.  But the problem comes when people feel they are entitled to their own facts.

What is true, too often, can then depend not on what actually happened, but on whose side you are,” he said, even as he warned that such a dispensation threatens to reduce the search for truth and make allegiance to a cause, ideology, political party or a tribal or religious identity more important, leading societies into a deadlock.

“In such a world, it is absolutely critical — more than ever — that the public should have somewhere to turn for reliable, balanced, objective and accurate information— as best as it can be discovered.  No one — including the Nation Media Group — will ever be able to do that perfectly.  But it is critically important that all of us should try,” he said. 

To help the group achieve its ideals effectively, the Aga Khan said, the Nation Media Group had formulated a set of editorial guidelines that were approved by its shareholders and were the subject of a meeting with senior editors and members of the NMG board prior to Thurday’s launch.

“We all concluded that the role of a truly independent media house is more important now than ever — in Africa and all around the world.  And we also acknowledged that fulfilling that independent role may be more difficult (now) than ever before,” he said.  

The guidelines, he added, represent the ethical and procedural standards for NMG’s journalists, who adhere to them as a moral obligation.