By Noelina Nabwire (Click here to see the blog site for all of this author's Communication Initiative blogs.)

 

That the media is an essential tool in any functioning democracy is not in doubt. What are the motives behind the various contents contained in the media? This question of motives becomes more pronounced during the electioneering period as is the case in Kenya.

The media reports on the happenings in society, oftentimes from the viewpoint of the journalist reporting the news. The legitimacy of the content of the media reports is occasionally contested with some alleging that they are exaggerated, misrepresented or distorted in view of what really occurred.

Whilst there may be allegations as seen above regarding media reporting, political communication during the electioneering period is different. The focus being political advertising, the means through which politicians and their political parties present their agenda, plans for the country and perspectives on what they think are the key priorities for the country should they win elections. The media in this case presents a vital platform upon which the politicians or the mandate seekers and the electorate engage.

Has the media in Kenya considered analyzing the content of campaign adverts to gauge their motives apart from selling the politicians’ and political parties’ manifestos? Could the content of these campaign adverts generate some sort of indicators that could be used to sound alarm bells on whether they are promoting peace and harmonious coexistence or fuelling violence? This is critical given that adverts enable individuals and groups to say what they want to say the way they would want their audiences to receive the information.

While appreciating that the media need advertisement revenue to be in business, is it right for any media to agree to print and/or broadcast adverts that promote propaganda, ethnic hatred, disunity and outright lies? In such a case, can the media have the guts to either refuse to take on the advert or inform the author to change the language to promote peace and harmonious living in the country? This will enable the media to contribute to national, regional and international peace and security.

It is high time the media utilize campaign advertising to measure the willingness of politicians and their political parties in working for and promoting peace in the country. In this case, where the adverts address priority issues and concerns of the country, the conclusion should be that peace and harmonious coexistence is being promoted. If the reverse is happening, then such politicians and political parties should be informed that they are fuelling violence.

Regarding the role of the political advertising in Australia, three main contexts are provided within which advertising, whether print or broadcast, is political.  First is government advertising, used to promote or explain government policies and programmes. The second category of advertising is lobby group and private interest - mainly unions, business leaders, "issue" groups - advertising aimed at swaying public opinion to buy into their agenda. Last but not least, there is election advertising used by candidates and political parties during election campaigns to persuade voters to vote for them.

Indeed, it is no secret that persons with political ambitions set up media outlets. They depend on them for constant positive coverage and visibility. There is a direct link between the quest for political office and the quantity of media clout, presence or manipulation that a candidate commands. While this might be the case, the nation comes first and the content that is printed and/or broadcast should promote peace and harmony.

In this tricky situation, what should be the role of the media in regard to "regulating" the content of campaign advertisement to ensure that peace prevails on the one hand and that politicians’ right to their campaign advertisements is not curtailed?

Image credit: Moses Wasamu