Media Perspective on the Upcoming General Elections
During the meeting, the participants confirmed that the media is a powerful tool that most people listen to and trust all the content that the practitioners put across. Mr. Hassan Kulundu, Vice Chairman of the Kenya Editors Guild noted that the upcoming general elections are anticipated to be free, fair and peaceful.
He said, “Media ethics is about highlighting issues that affects citizens, historical injustices, educating people on what election exercise is and what is expected from them during an election period.” Issues like civic education cannot be re-emphasized. “Media practitioners’ need to educate the public on how to vote in devolved government since in the coming general elections, the voters will vote for six candidates unlike the previous general elections.”
Mr. Kulundu also observed that it would be better for camera persons to focus their camera lenses on the candidate’s speaking and not the crowd in attendance. “If some candidates for elective seats are seen with a big crowd and other camps have a small crowd; people might assume automatic victory for the camp with majority followers. Violence may ensue if elections results turn opposite.”
Mr. Kulundu also advised that media practitioners should be wary not to be used by seasonal politicians to propagate hate speech. “Any statement said by a politician should be probed further to take responsibility over their talks.” He said adding “…..lest media will be accused of unfair reportage.” Vice Chairman of the Kenya Editors Guild advised the press people to be focused on the journalists’ code of conduct. “Thorough research for the articles before dissemination may avert unforeseen tension which may be fueled by biased reports.” He warned.
Mr. Kulundu applauded the move by media houses to interview the opinion polls’ lead researchers to demystify any ambiguity in their poll results. “…..this gives audience a chance to learn how opinion polls are conducted.” Vice Chair, Kenya Editor’s Guild said. He challenged all media houses to put to task all opinion poll research institutions to validate their findings to the public.
According to Mr. Francis Munywoki, Value and Innovation Director, Standard Media Group, “Kenyans are addicted to politics and any day any other news item is given prominence, the sales of the newspaper drops drastically.” He observed.
He challenged media practitioners to be more creative in presenting other news items like judicial reforms, land reforms, historical injustices, poverty and inequality, youth unemployment; to attract same readership just like politics.
“…there is need to channel our energy into things we would like to have as a country and not wallow on those that we don’t want.” Mr. Munywoki advised.
The Value and Innovation director further called for the media practitioners to purpose for a peaceful election through the messages which informs and bring forth cohesion in the country. “I promise a peaceful, conflict sensitive, issue based balanced and thoroughly researched presidential debates soon.”
Mr. Francis Munywoki is currently in charge of the team organizing for the presidential debates set to start next month on 11 February 2013. The civil society organizations at the meeting pledged to offer any information needed by the media practitioners to facilitate a smooth election in March 4th, 2013.
Ms Venter Nkatha representing the Association of Media Women in Kenya said, “Accuracy, balanced and issue based reporting is the heart of journalism and that is what media practitioners must offer.” She also reminded the media to be gender balanced so that both the male and female politicians are given equal media space.