The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission has decried the negative role played by the media in making the recently concluded two elections in Kenya, divisive, full of conflict and weary.
Speaking during a Dialogue Exchange Program on Responsible journalism in prevention of Election Violence, in Nairobi, Kenya on Monday, IEBC communications manager, Andrew Limo claimed that “small things journalists wrote without verification, cost the IEBC so much.”
Mr Limo pointed out an article by a major media house which insinuated that IEBC and the Ruling party had connived to hack into the system with the help of a Russian firm to manipulate the initial elections.
The report according to Mr Limo was picked off NASA’s candidate Raila Odinga’s campaign rally and not verified. It later became subject of contention and shaped the election petition that led to the nullification of the first election in September.
“Journalists have become prey to spin doctors, they are now being owned by certain entities and political parties, they will write according to that Party’s style, take whatever they get from there as final truth and will not verify,” Mr Limo said.
“Editors write headlines in the morning before sending reporters for the story to fit that headline, many of them come to our offices with an already predetermined story. The small things these journalists write without verification cost us so much as IEBC,” he added.
Mr Limo’s comments come against the backdrop of two presidential elections challenged in Kenyan court of law. In September, supreme court quashed Uhuru Kenyatta’s election and asked that fresh polls be held after 60 days. Although Uhuru won the fresh polls, they were poorly attended and even challenged in court again. However, his election was stayed and is due for his inauguration on Tuesday.
In the same light, Mr Eric Chinje, the CEO of African Media Initiative (AMI) cautioned media practitioners against fuelling violence during elections, tasking them to look out for the positive outcomes while covering election related issues.
“Media practitioners must contribute to more positive outcomes in their own countries during elections. During the elections, media should step back and report what transforms to development, if it is not leading to development, then it is not worth it,” Mr Chinje said.
Mr Chinje called upon journalists to make a judgmental call before reporting about elections, asking themselves if whatever bad they are about to report is worth the story or it will only infuriate people and cause further negative impact to the country in terms of development or even people’s lives.
“Elections are central to good governance and good governance is central to development. There fore, language of the press should be totally different during elections,” he added.
On his part, Wangethi Mwangi, a senior advisor to AMI and former Nation Media Group (NMG) Editorial Director castigated journalists for taking sides with parties in elections.
He said journalist tend to associate with parties that fit their emotions and in the event ending up carrying these emotions in their day to day operations.
“Journalists have chosen political camps; they group themselves to that news that fits their emotions,” he said.
He called upon media houses to enforce their editorial guidelines and editors not to hesitate to put the editorial policy of the media house at use in enforcing discipline, balance and accurate reporting of news during elections.
However, the Assistant Director for Civic Education and Advocacy for the National Cohesion and Integration Commission, Kenya, Mr Killian Nyambu said that they have created specific partnerships with media houses, which involve training of journalists, engaging media and media council on accurate reporting.
He urged other countries to take up the matter and ensure that journalists are given the write information to disseminate to the public when lies are fed to them by specific media.
The Dialogue is organised by American Friends Service Committee who goal is to promote a culture of peace among youth and the communities in which they live.