Journalists and social media influencers in Tana River County have been trained by Search for Common Ground Organization (SFCG), on how to mitigate the spread of narratives that may contribute to electoral violence.
The organization with funding from the European Union is implementing an 18-month initiative dubbed, Uchaguzi bila balaa in Mombasa, Kilifi, Kwale, Lamu, Taita-Taveta, Tana River and Garissa counties.
The initiative targeting youth and women aims at strengthening multi-stakeholder identification of and response to election-related violence risks and to mitigate the impact of narratives contributing to electoral violence.
Dominic Mwambui, SFCG Communication Officer said they have instilled knowledge in journalists and social media influencers on how to combat and deal with hate speech on social media.
He said, “SFCG organization is leading in the world in issues of building peace in society by encouraging the use of non-violent methods. In Tana River County, we have been able to bring journalists and social media influencers into this activity.”
“We were empowering them so that they know how to fight hate messages in the networks and also to be able to deal with them in a way that will not lead to violence,” he added.
They were also taught how to create contents that will have a positive impact on their target audience.
Mwambui said the reason they are educating journalists and social media influencers is that during this election epoch different types of messages are being spread, some of which are misleading and are meant to lead to incitement or bring hatred.
“If these journalists can identify the hate messages, they will not be able to write them or broadcast news with hate messages, thus the society will receive information that will not provoke them to commit violence,’’ he said.
In Tana River, the initiative will be implemented by Tana River Peace for Reconciliation and Development (TRPRD).
Harrison Morowa, Chairman of TRPRD said it is the collective responsibility of social media users to take action against messages that may cause violence.
Social media, he said, nowadays is used to spread rumours that may lead to violence in the county, which has been synonymous with electoral-related conflicts in the past.
He said, “When we go to the election, there is a lot of tension, thankfully there is no physical confrontation but on social sites, social media can build relationships or break them.”
“If we look at our history here in Tana River, every election time we have violence. We have not had violence for the last nine years, but this does not mean it is over because we still have the scars and something small can take us back there,” said Morowa.
By Sadik Hassan