National governments remain the single largest source of revenue for news organisations in Africa. In Rwanda, for example, a staggering 85-90% of advertising revenue comes from the public sector. In Kenya, it’s estimated that 30% of newspaper revenue comes from government advertising. In 2013, the government spent Ksh40-million in two weeks just to publish congratulatory messages for the new President Uhuru Kenyatta. But with a general election coming up this year in August, the Kenyan government has decided to stop advertising in local commercial media. In a memo, reportedly sent to all government accounting officers, the directive was given that state departments and agencies would only advertise in My.Gov — a government newspaper and online portal. Electronic advertising would only be aired on the state broadcaster — the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation. It’s difficult not to characterise the withdrawal of state advertising from commercial media as punitive. Without this revenue st...

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