To date, genuine reforms and guided efforts that go beyond the usual negative ethnicity, propaganda, rumor mongering and innuendo are lacking. This is happening against the reality that the 2012 general elections in Kenya are hardly a year away. No tangible accountability and promise to hold accountable those accused of corruption and those suspected to be the master minds of the 2008 post election violence, exist, save for the ongoing International Criminal Court (ICC) process.

While the media was lauded by various quarters for improved reporting on the ICC process, it failed in objectively gathering, analyzing and disseminating factual information to Kenyans and the world at large on the critical issues at hand. What we saw were journalists ceding their microphones to politicians who used the media to spread propaganda and negative ethnicity. Instead of the media focusing on serious issues at hand - holding accountable the perpetrators of the 2008 post election violence and ensuring that justice is seen to be done for the victims, the major news disseminated to Kenyans was an agenda - propaganda - by politicians.

Media’s coverage and reporting of the ICC process has been biased towards politicians with an emphasis on their innocence and the future of their political careers including the suspects who hold presidential ambitions. The information is usually gathered, analyzed and placed on the top pages. Issues of accountability of the perpetrators of the 2008 post election violence, justice for the victims, and resettlement of victims still languishing in camps are usually placed in the back burner. The implication in the international sphere is that Kenya rewards and tolerates impunity. Media coverage and reporting of the ICC process and about the six suspects made heroes out of persons who are suspected to have committed grievous human rights violations, impacting negatively on the image of the country.

This is happening despite the fact that journalists were taken through briefing sessions on how to cover the ICC process in an objective and factual manner. If such reporting is anything to go by and the 2012 elections is approaching, can all media houses, media owners and the Media Council stand up, make a commitment to Kenyans and promise that as the agenda setters, shapers of public opinion, watchdogs of the excesses of the three estates of government - the executive, legislature and the judiciary - they will do Kenya proud and avoid a repeat of the 2008 post election violence.

For instance, several observer groups, including those from the European Union and the Commonwealth, found that the 2007 election process was seriously flawed.[1] Reports from both groups noted a clear bias in the state media toward President Kibaki and the Party of National Unity (PNU). Media coverage analysis by the Coalition for Accountable Political Financing (CAPF) concluded that the government-owned Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) “failed to fulfill the minimal legal obligations required of it as a public service broadcaster as set out in the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation Act.” The study found that 76 per cent of election news reporting on KBC radio and 71 per cent on KBC television was given to the PNU. The KBC also failed to provide candidates with free airtime, as required by law.[2]

In their second monitoring report at the end of October 2007 - Strategic Public Relations & Research Limited, a firm contracted by UNDP to inform journalists, the public and politicians to ensure enhanced fair and accurate media reporting - concluded that the media was biased in its coverage. It noted that there was extensive, preferential coverage given to the incumbent presidential candidate and the ruling party and little coverage or resources were assigned to opposition parties. The report made recommendations that if all media stakeholders in Kenya can consider, review and adhere to the media codes, the 2012 general elections will be better. The recommendations made include: (the full publication’s URL is (http://fesmedia.org/fileadmin/files-fesmedia.org/Semetko_Election_campaigns.pdf).

·         The free air time granted to candidates should be made available during primetime, as this can be the only time that candidates have access to media.

·         Paid political advertising should be regulated and clearly labeled, accompanied by financial transparency to ensure equality among contestants.

·         Publicly funded broadcasting organizations and print media should serve the public and not the political forces, and therefore guaranteed editorial and financial independence.

·         There should be a clear separation between election programs and other programs that are not about the campaign, and the latter should not be used to promote political parties and candidates.

My plea to media stakeholders in Kenya is whether they will stand up and be counted, commit and guarantee that they will be guided by media codes and ethics in ensuring a free and fair election in 2012.

By Noelina Nabwire  

[1] EU Election Observation Mission - Kenya (EUEOM-Kenya), 27 December 2007-

Final Report on the General Elections (Nairobi: EUEOM-Kenya, 2008); Commonwealth

Observer Group, Report of the Commonwealth Observer Group for the 2007 General

Elections in Kenya (Nairobi: Commonwealth Observer Group, 2008).

[2] The Coalition for Accountable Political Financing (CAPF), Campaign Finance and

Corruption: A Monitoring Report on Campaign Finance in the 2007 General Election

(Nairobi: CAPF, April 23, 2008).