Internews challenges Kenyan media to be free and fair

Internews in Kenya has launched a new media training program which promotes responsible reportage of the run up to the next election and the electoral process itself.   

The Free and Fair Media (FFM) program introduced in Nairobi on August 15 2011 will equip mainstream journalists with the skills to keep a check on the new electoral institutions, to give fair coverage to campaigns and to report on the various sets of results. Integrity and balance will be emphasized in the training program, which has identified ways to overcome the pitfalls of 2007.

Speaking at the launch, Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission Director Prof. Patrick Lumumba challenged journalists to guard their profession against individuals pushing their own agenda.

“A journalist is like a soldier holding an AK 47 rifle: he can protect or destroy” said Lumumba quoting from former Sierra Leone President Joseph Momoh.

Kenya, like many African countries, is recovering from years of authoritarian rule, inter-community animosities and violent elections. 
However, it is the build up to the last general elections in 2007 characterized by heightened political tensions that conceived the deadliest and most violent confrontations. After the disputed presidential elections, Kenya witnessed its worst moment in history when there was widespread violence in the country. More than 1,300 people were killed and 650,000 citizens were displaced.

Reviews undertaken after the violence showed that many institutions, including the media failed, in their role and in a way contributed to the crisis.
Some Kenyan media outlets were accused of fuelling the violence by using language and images that provoked inter-communal hostilities. Others seemed not to have the capacity to ensure balanced coverage of the campaigns and of the violent events that erupted after the proclamation of the election results.

To address this, the new media program, Free and Fair Media, seeks to promote an environment in Kenya where media is allowed to articulate an agenda that looks to the future, offers solutions to societal challenges and mitigates conflict situations.

“We will train journalists, editors and presenters of Kenyan mainstream media to report fairly on the crucial electoral process, taking into account the voters’ needs and expectations” said Brice Rambaud, Internews Resident Journalism Advisor, during the launch.

Internews Country Director Ida Jooste said the media program will help journalists track the processes of the next election, adding “the media has to have all the tools to be able to keep a check on the progress and independence of the various processes now unfolding to ensure the next elections are credible: from the way polling data is handled, to the way media creates a democratic space to have different party positions heard.”

Free and Fair Media project manager Mr. Caleb Atemi said the program would promote preparedness, balance and integrity among the journalists who will cover the 2012 general elections.  “An irresponsible media could turn into a deadly arsenal for a young democracy like Kenya”, said Atemi.
The Free and Fair Media program will run until November 2013. This will allow the organization to follow up on the implementation of the new Constitution and election promises. This program for mainstream media complements Internews Land and Conflict Sensitive Journalism, which equips community and local language radio stations with the skills to handle political topics and call-ins with a conflict sensitive approach. 

For more information please contact Caleb Atemi [email protected]