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Media in the dock over polls

Wednesday September 17 2008

By ZULEKHA NATHOO

Media reports on opinion polls showing President Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga neck-and-neck prior to elections were among contributors to the post-election violence.

According to a report compiled by Mr Justice Johann Kriegler’s Independent Review Commission, the polls sent mixed signals to voters.

Supporters of President Kibaki’s PNU and those of Mr Odinga’s ODM were made to believe that their candidate was assured of victory in the General Election.

The Sunday Nation, for instance, was cited in the report for having commissioned weekly polls that “sparked heated debates in the run-up to election day”. The polls were said to have shaped people’s perceptions in poll campaign.

Media houses are also being held accountable in the report for failing to observe ethical standards. Some broadcasters were clearly biased, the report says.

Call-in FM radio stations, live television interviews and talk shows generated enormous amount of interest from listeners and politicians during the campaign period.

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“Politicians used the occasions to lure their voters and attack opponents,” said the Kriegler report.