Baringo leaders count on media for voter education

Baringo Counties Editor's Pick Politics

As the country ends the first week of the mass voter registration, leaders, activists and electoral officials in Baringo County are calling for more responsible journalism and expanded media coverage to reach all corners of the vast county.

Mochongoi Ward Member of County Assembly (MCA) Kipruto Kimosop has pointed out that the media needs to partner with the marginalised communities and disadvantaged groups to mobilise potential voters to register. Photo by Christopher Kiprop

The leaders said open, transparent and informative coverage of the electoral process would help cultivate a political environment for peaceful and credible elections on August 9, 2022.

In the vast county nearly 15 times the size of Kenya’s capital city, Nairobi, the call for enhanced media coverage during the 30-day window for mass voter registration is urgent.

“The media infrastructure is wanting. Most parts of Baringo cannot be reached by radio and most households cannot afford television or even the print media,” said Baringo Governor Stanley Kiptis.

The relative trickle of new voters in Baringo, the governor said, was because the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission had not stepped up the media campaign to mobilise voters.  In the 2017 elections, Baringo County had 232,211 registered voters, just 1.2 per cent of the total registered voters in the country.

Kiptis lamented that social media and its inherent danger of spreading false information was likely to affect the voter registration, the electoral process and the security situation in Baringo.

He spoke as the top IEBC official in the county banked on journalists and the media to help with voter education.

“Media helps in voicing the electorate’s concerns, publicising the electoral process and partnering with the electoral agency in advancing voter education,” said William Ndung’u, the Electoral Commission’s County Coordinator.

Speaking with the KNA, Ndung’u said that while the political environment kept evolving, the electoral principles in a democratic system remained constant and ought to be protected.

Journalists and media houses could help the electoral process through accurate reporting, he said.

“In Baringo County, I would appreciate an open interaction and information sharing with the electorate,” said the top official of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) in the county.

The chairman of the civil society organizations in the county Mr. Isaiah Biwott said it was the role of the media to conduct voter education to make more people understand why their vote matters.

“Being a registered voter allows us to choose the leaders we want to effect the change we need,” said Biwott.

He said the media had to work harder to curb hate speech and other violent rhetoric in vernacular platforms.

But to the politicians, there’s more value in the media’s watchdog role to guarantee transparent and verifiable elections, according to Kipruto Kimosop, the County Assembly Member (MCA) of Mochongoi Ward.

Kimosop, also a civil rights activist, said the media has a role in giving balanced coverage and exposing the culprits of election malpractices.

He added: “The media can be used effectively to enhance national cohesion and integration by communicating information that fosters peace and unity among Kenya’s diverse tribes and cultures during elections.”

The leaders and activists also pointed out that the media had to partner with the marginalised communities and disadvantaged groups to mobilise potential voters to register.

Christine Kandie a representative of the marginalised Endorois community, who champions women’s land rights and the rights of persons with disabilities, believes that media could make a level playing field for women whom the society has always disadvantaged in competitive elections.

“Men are more dominant and visible in media and elections, and gender stereotypes prevail in both. These differences are mutually reinforcing in the sense that less prominence of women in the media impacts their political success thus less women politicians means less news stories focusing on women leaders,” Kandie said.

Kandie said persons living with disabilities should also be given fair coverage to increase inclusivity and champion rights of the minority group.

A youth representative from Kabartonjo ward in Baringo North sub-county Faith Chebichii called on journalists to report fairly and avoid bias.

“…politicians mostly use the youth to fight one another. So, the media has a role of ensuring that they do not report information that will instigate violence during campaigns and elections period,” Chebichii said.

Stanley Kitilit, a youth from Tiaty sub-county within Baringo County, was concerned about online bloggers who do not vet information before publication saying publication of alarming and unverified information may cause tension.

“Online bloggers should be careful when airing any information to residents and especially in insecurity prone areas of Baringo to avoid sparking in violence during and after the election period”, Kitilit said.

By Christopher Kiprop

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