Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department

Mass Communications

Major Professor

Robert W. Dardenne, Ph.D.


Press and Africa, Media and Africa, Freedom of the press/Africa, Mass media/Africa, Government and the press/Africa


The purpose of this study was to investigate the role of alternative press in mobilizing Kenyans to regain a multi-party political system after 29 years of one-party rule that had turned into authoritarianism. The study focused on Society magazine, and touched on two other magazines, Finance and Nairobi Law Monthly. Unlike Society, these magazines were not intended to cover politics, although they changed their role later. Finance and Nairobi Law Monthly were examined through secondary sources and the author's interactions with the publishers. Whereas Society was a weekly founded and run by journalists, Finance and Nairobi Law Monthly were monthlies founded and run by non-journalists. The other goal of this study was to find out how the alternative press affected the mainstream press, particularly the Nation. The study began with examination of Kenya's history and government-press relationship from 1895 to 1992.

The period covered three major eras: The colonial period (1895-1963); the first era of the African government under President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta (1963-1978); and the second era of the African government under President Daniel arap Moi, who was in office from 1978 to 2002. I analyzed the first 14 of Moi's 24-year rule, when the country reverted to a democracy. The Study found that by not giving in to government pressure and threats, the alternative publications encouraged the mainstream press to defy the government and to regain freedom. Here are two examples of how the alternative press encouraged the mainstream press. When Oginga Odinga announced his intentions to form the opposition National Development Party, and the political pressure Forum for Restoration of Democracy, the mainstream press did not cover the announcements for fear of the government. The alternative press covered the announcements weeks later, after which the Nation and the Standard began covering debate on the government's refusal to register the two organizations.

Society pioneered publication of political cartoons of government leaders in Kenya, and now the dailies use such cartoons without fear.