The media has been urged to be objective by upping their game as the country hurtles towards the high-stake August 9 General Elections.
Veteran journalist and media trainer, Owino Opondo, says the mainstream media should be fair and do their work professionally and diligently so as to gain ‘public trust’.
“Journalists both in public and private media practice should strive to promote democracy through accurate reportage,” he said.
Opondo says media practitioners should avoid falling into the trap of being used as ‘propaganda tools’ by candidates vying for various elective seats or political parties.
He said journalists should adhere to the Constitution as well as specified professional and ethical standards as stipulated in the Media Code of Conduct.
Opondo spoke at the Kenya School of Government (KSG), Mombasa during a two-day election reporting training for public information officers drawn from Kwale, Kilifi, Lamu, Taita Taveta and Tana River counties.
Similar training forums organized by the Office of the Government Spokesperson in collaboration with the Media Council of Kenya (MCK) were held in Machakos, Embu, Nakuru and Kisumu counties.
Opondo noted that the media should avoid politics that promote ‘hatred, insults and trivial issues’ that do not concern the lives of ordinary Kenyans.
“The media should always maintain integrity, accuracy, fairness and objectivity in bringing facts to the people,” he said.
Opondo, a former editorial training coordinator at Nation Media Group said getting the facts right is the cardinal principle of journalism while fairness and impartiality are critical to every media practitioner.
He went on: “it’s the duty of the media to give objective reports about the elections, its processes and the candidates involved’.
Opondo also urged journalists to eschew reports which tend to promote feelings of enmity or hatred between people on the grounds of ethnicity, region and religion.
He also urged citizens and the media to guard against the use of hate speech ahead of the impending general elections noting that it incites violence and undermines social cohesion and tolerance.
“The media should avoid at all costs hate speech and content which can incite violence against citizens and the stigmatization of people more so during an electioneering period,” he said adding that journalists should be accountable to their audiences.
Ken Bosire, another media trainer, challenged the media to uphold professional ethics to satisfy all key election stakeholders.
Bosire said the general polls gave the media the chance to prove that it was in a position to provide free, balanced and objective electoral coverage.
He advised the media fraternity to aspire for the highest level of ethical and professional standards in the countdown to the elections.
Bosire noted that the media practitioners are among the few professionals considered essential because of the critical role that information plays in society.
On her part, Dinnah Ondari, Manager Press Freedom, Safety and Advocacy at the MCK said the media should not cover men and women politicians and candidates differently.
Ondari decried that in the past, male candidates received more and better news coverage than their female counterparts.
She said MCK is out to ensure that the media does not get intimidated in any way but urged journalists not to compromise professional standards and observe ethics.
She also noted that in times of elections, violence in the media escalates and urged journalists to ‘scan the environment under which they operate and watch their back’.
By Hussein Abdullahi