Enhancing Media Coverage

Enhancing Media Coverage and Visibility of Women Aspirants Prior to the 2013 General Elections
Donor: NDI
Duration: Dec 15 2012 – June 2013

Through this project, AMWIK sought to promote the visibility of women aspirants in the media, as well as contributing to the development of media content for election platform programs. AMWIK intended to accomplish this through direct engagement with the media and building their capacity to deliberately and effectively raise the profile of women aspirants in the run up to the 2013 general elections.

The training supported by USAID through NDI enhanced journalists’ understanding of the electoral processes and further equipped them with skills to report on the elections, particularly on gender, hate speech, corruption and ethnicity in an ethical and professional manner. A total of 106 (62 female and 44 male) journalists from print and electronic media were trained. The journalists and correspondents were drawn from Western, Rift Valley and Nyanza, Coast and Eastern regions of Kenya.

A total of 39 media stations (eight print and 31 Radio/Television broadcasting) were represented in the trainings; these were the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation(KBC), Kenya News Agency (KNA), Hope FM, Radio Mwananchi, Radio Amani, Oltoilole Maa FM, Gulf Radio, Inooro FM, Radio Sema, Kass FM, Coro FM, Kameme FM, Radio Lake Victoria, Radio Sahara, Nation Media Group, The Standard Media, Milele FM, Pilipili FM, Kaya FM, The Star Newspaper, The People Daily, Mbaitu FM, Citizen Radio, Citizen TV, Radio Rahma, Radio Salaam, Athiani FM, Sheki FM, Radio Jambo, Musyi FM, Wikwatyo FM, Anchor Media services, Syokimau FM, Pwani FM, The Spotlight, Coast This Week, Baraka FM, Kiss TV and Radio Mangelete.

At the end of the training the journalists committed to abide by the Media Code of Ethics and the electoral laws in reporting of political campaigns and the general election. They also promised to give women political candidates equal coverage with their male opponents. A report done by the Media Council of Kenya indicates a remarkable adherence to the Code of Conduct for the Practice of Journalism in Kenya during the period, with average accuracy and balance in the stories.

The African Union Election Observation Mission to the March 2013 general elections in Kenya said the media largely upheld the Code of Conduct and were mainly either positive or neutral in their coverage of both the electoral process and the polling day itself. The Commonwealth Observer Group and the European Union Election Observation Mission also gave similar reports.

However the observer missions noted that the media gave coverage of female candidates a relatively lower priority contrary to the Code of Conduct and practice in journalism, which states that “women and men should be treated equally as news subjects and news sources.” AMWIK also noted that media houses were generally driven by commercial interests, whereby much of the coverage accorded to women was paid for by different civil society groups in form of supplements and advertisements. AMWIK supports recommendations by the Commonwealth Observer Group on need for media strengthening to fulfill its mandate.

AMWIK also lobbied media houses and individual journalists to cover women aspirants and further worked closely with NDI to produce newspaper supplements listing all female candidates cleared by the IEBC to contest for the six elective positions of president, governor, senator, member of parliament, women representative and member of county assembly in the 2013 general election that raised the visibility of the women candidates.

We received positive feedback from candidates, the civil society and public who congratulated AMWIK for setting the pace for women candidates’ visibility in Kenya. Members public were particularly happy to know the women in the race given that IEBC did not publish the list of all candidates while supporters of the candidates noted that the supplements gave mileage to the women candidates, and contributed to them getting more support during campaigns ahead of the March 2013 general election.

Following widespread uncertainty among the Kenyan electorate and even candidates over which candidates had been cleared to vie in certain areas, AMWIK views that the supplements helped clear the air. For example, in Kajiado East constituency, there were rumours doing rounds that the female candidate, Peris Tobiko had dropped her bid as her community considered it a curse for a woman to run for parliament. She was initially in the Orange Democratic Party (ODM) but later decamped to The National Alliance (TNA) party.

There was also confusion regarding the nomination of Mary Wambui to vie for the Othaya parliamentaryseat as it was alleged that another candidate had been endorsed by TNA. Publication of the final list of candidates was thus welcome. The supplement also provided the women candidates with an opportunity to counter check andverify that their names were in the IEBC list and correct any ensuing mistakes.

AMWIK also produced a one-minute radio infomercial that was aired in local media sensitizing Kenyans on the gains for women in the constitution, particularly on the elective positions available for the women to vie (it was important to clarify to the public that women wereeligible to vie for the positions of governor, senator, member of national assembly and county representatives and shun the misconception that they were only to vie for the women representative seats). The infomercial also called on n voters to support women leadership.

Besides enhancing women’s visibility, the combined activities by AMWIK contributed to the general peaceful environment in Kenya during the elections, as a result of ethical reporting by media, that was conducive for women to participate in the electoral process, other challenges notwithstanding. An impressive feature of the 2013 election was the hosting of live television debates for the eight presidential candidates, including the only woman in the presidential race, Martha Karua.  Radio and television stations also designed talk shows that brought women candidates on board.