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Media houses consort in drafting guidelines to safeguard journalists

An inter-media houses’ team appointed by the Media Council of Kenya (MCK) in February has finalized work on a charter providing drafting guidelines that will coordinate the safety and protection of journalists during and after the August 9 General Election.

MCK Chief Executive Officer Mr. David Omwoyo said protection of journalists during the polls would now enjoy collective action and goodwill from all senior editors in the inter media houses team who would prioritize and provide leadership on the matter in case of emergencies.

“Prior to commissioning formation of the team, the Media Council had identified disparities on safety of journalists, including situations where policies of some media houses do not allow their journalists to evacuate their counterparts from other media houses during distress,” the CEO noted.

He stated that the council was engaging key political players and stakeholders- the government and the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) to guarantee the safety and security of journalists against poll-related violence.

“This guarantee should include protection against verbal attacks aimed at individual journalists by politicians and meant to incite the public against the targeted media personality. Giving journalists the leeway to do their work independently, free from any form of threats and intimidation as they cover the third General Election under the 2010 Constitution, is a key step towards free and fair polls,” Omwoyo said.

“While we urge journalists to demonstrate courage, renewed commitment and ethical conduct in their work, we wish to emphasize that media managers and owners have a duty to offer journalists needed support, especially to the correspondents who work in difficult environments that expose them to various vulnerabilities,” he added.

Apart from crafting the said guidelines, the inter-media team is also working on new avenues to empower journalists to fight for their safety rights while on active duty.

“It will also provide reasonable coverage of matters of press freedom violations whenever relevant stakeholders and actors raise concern and propose action to duty bearers including government leaders and political aspirants on the need to protect media privileges and spell clear consequences of violating the same,” Omwoyo added.

Omwoyo said that MCK would set up media centres in Nakuru, Mombasa, Kisumu, Nairobi and Eldoret for journalists to work from during the election period to facilitate real time and accurate reporting of events during the polling process.

He indicated that over 2000 local journalists have been trained on updated election coverage guidelines which were reviewed last year by a technical committee that brought together representatives from media houses, independent practitioners and media professional bodies.

He said the reviewed guidelines would serve as a self-regulating tool for journalists to ensure that the media plays its role in the interest of a free, fair and peaceful election.

The MCK CEO said that the renewal of the guidelines was informed by the efforts to capture the emerging realities in the country and enhance professionalism in journalism.

He added that the guidelines had been subjected to stakeholder validation before being published and launched to ensure the journalists and media houses understood them.

“The guidelines are meant to ensure the media provides unbiased, fair and balanced coverage of elections ensuring that the campaign debate, the election itself and the issues around it are covered professionally and in depth,” he said.

He called on the journalists to be in the forefront in focusing on important issues affecting Kenyans such as insecurity and other challenges.

Omwoyo stated that the council was carrying out a number of strategies including collaboration with the media to ensure that it plays its civic role to educate Kenyans on the importance of electing responsible leaders while upholding its watchdog role of ensuring transparency in electoral processes.

By Jane Ngugi

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