Media and Agenda Setting

Nairobi 28th February 12

The question of whose agenda the media should address; theirs or the people’s, was raised as a pertinent issue during a media roundtable organized by Media focus on Africa at Alliance Francaise, Nairobi.

Hosting Ms. Jane Thuo of the Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK), Prof. Robert White of Hekima College, Mr. Andy Kagwa a senior editor at The Standard Group, Haron Mwangi of the Media Council of Kenya and Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission’s (IEBC) Director of voter education, Dr. Joel Mabonga, the forum was addressing the role of the Kenyan media in setting the agenda in the electoral process.

Ms. Thuo expressed her confidence in the media as an agenda setter; saying that Kenyans have in many research findings identified it as their most trusted institution. She was however quick to point out that sometimes what the people expect from the media is unrealistic. Following on the same, The Standard’s Andy Kagwa pointed out that people should never ignore the fact that media is also a business, “at the end of the day we have to stay in the market,” he said in regard to marketing strategies employed by the media.

While in agreement that the media is tool for change in society, Prof. White also warned that sometimes that role can be abused. “Vernacular radio stations especially, amplify the problems of the local people sometimes,” he said. Dr. Mabonga choose to focus on the laws that guide institutions and people during electioneering periods, urging media houses to educate Kenyans on the elections act.

Representing the official media watchdog in Kenya, Media Council, Mr. Mwangi urged the Media to invest more on issues rather than events. He also added that the Media Council was preparing a manual on elections and governance reporting, and would also be holding a journalists convention in May this year to follow up on the same.

Social Media could not escape a mention during the forum, “Where does social media come in?” a participant posed. Apart from driving some important agendas on the internet, social media was discussed as an alternative media that can be used to bring accountability to the mainstream.