Thursday, March 28, 2013

Report: Election propaganda widespread in social media

Kenyans have been urged not to use hate speech in social media. Photo/FILE

Kenyans have been urged not to use hate speech in social media. Photo/FILE  

By LILLIAN ONYANGO laonyango@ke.nationmedia.com

The Kenya Human Rights Commission (KHRC) on Thursday released its report on the recent elections citing the spread of propaganda through social media.

In its interim report while awaiting the Supreme Court’s decision on the presidential petition, the commission said the mainstream media’s decision not to air what was considered controversial or likely to stir conflict gave way to citizen journalism to report on the events.

They said the net effect of the coverage was speculation on “real and imagined issues that found their way out through citizen journalism in the social media."

“While the mainstream media houses decided to govern their coverage around the peace message, the alternative social media, especially Kenyans on Twitter and Facebook, ran amok with all manner of accusations and counter-accusations mainly laced on choice epithets betraying raw ethnic chauvinism or blind political party loyalty,” said KHRC Senior Programme Officer, George Morara.

However, KHRC acknowledged that responsible journalism is crucial for the stability of the country in a potentially volatile situation, such as anomalies in the entire election process.

Among some of the allegations that were common in the social media, Mr Morara said was that civil societies are “agents of imperialism.”

“Despite the taunts being hurled our way, we will remain resolute in our pursuit for human right, guided by the search for peace with truth and justice,” he said.

The report also stated that there were some cases of insecurity reported in some parts of the country during the elections period.

This, it said, caused people to relocate from what they viewed as volatile areas such as Nairobi, Eldoret, Nakuru and Kisumu for fear of being attacked by members of rival communities.

Also, KHRC said that IEBC should have held elections for various seats on different days.

“They were held on the same day – a situation that is dissimilar to most other jurisdictions that contain devolved governance structures, such as Uganda or Nigeria, whose national and local level elections are held at different times,” Executive Director Ms Atsango Chesoni said.

“Given the low levels of civic and voter education conducted by the IEBC and other stakeholders, the voting process was bound to, and indeed resulted in, massive levels of confusion amongst the electorate, who have customarily voted for the three candidates,” she added.

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