Media houses should avoid taking sides amid tense political situation

Friday October 27 2017

Early this week, a prominent senator and a government spokesman held a press conference where they made an alarming statement about what the Opposition was planning to do or say.

What was most intriguing was the speculative nature of the “breaking news”. Kenyans were left scratching their heads. Was this piece of “intelligence” aimed at forestalling the action said to have been planned by the Opposition or to force an opinion on the public “in advance” about a political event that had not yet taken place?

Coming at a time when our country is polarised along political and tribal lines, the statement left many unanswered questions.

The media, politicians and spokespersons need to be careful in the way they disseminate information.

CREDIBILITY

The following factors are key in lending credence to the credibility of information: timing, completeness, objectivity and independence of not just the sources of the news but also the disseminators. In some situations, the motive of a report is a major consideration.

The media plays a key role in setting the pace of the national agenda. It is through analytical journalism that the media can shape the opinion of Kenyans on various issues.

News bearers such as public relations officers, politicians, senior government officials and spokespersons also play a critical role in influencing how Kenyans perceive certain issues, including the performance of the government, governance issues, fair distribution of resources and the independence of constitutional offices.

EMOTIVE ISSUES

When media houses openly take sides on certain sensitive or emotive issues such as the stalemate on the repeat presidential election in a bid to influence the final outcome, they risk a backlash.

This is because such action is deemed an abuse of trust the audience or Kenyans have placed on them.

That is why it is important for media houses to vet guest political or legal analysts on their panels during debates of national importance.

A media house can unknowingly erode its credibility by giving preferential treatment to commentators who advance the cause of only one group or party.

JOE MUSYOKI, Kajiado.

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The pandemonium that took place in Migori, Siaya, Kisumu and other counties on Wednesday prior to the repeat presidential election should be condemned in the strongest possible terms.

The Constitution guarantees every adult citizen the right, without unreasonable restrictions, to vote by secret ballot in any election or referendum.

It is, therefore, illegal for anybody to disenfranchise any Kenyan his inalienable right to vote.

To vote or not to vote are inalienable rights of every citizen and they cannot be forced down his or her throat through intimidation or other unlawful means.

Kenyan politics should be divorced from violence. Kenyans need peace and unity.

Political bigotry and militant political tendencies can be our greatest undoing. The buck stops with all Kenyans.

JOSEPH G. MUTHAMA, Kiambu.