Bravo to media training on election coverage
The elections may be almost nine months away but the Kenyan media has been actively preparing for them.
The Media Council of Kenya has taken lead on this and has been organising trainings across the country to sensitise journalists on election coverage.
The other conference of journalists- the Kenya Editors Guild - has been equally busy drawing attention to its preparedness to cover the coming elections
It speaks of how seriously the role of the media is perceived to be. Not only have journalists been trained and editors sensitised, but special guide on election reporting has been issued; it should guide Kenyan journalists and anybody who will be reporting on the elections on what to do.
This speaks also of our own shortcomings as a society. Germany has just completed their elections, it was hotly contested, but it did not matter.
Nothing much happened there, no violence, no shedding of blood, everyday activities proceeded on as usual, the shopping malls were opened, the buses were on schedule as if there was no anticipated change in government.
But again, Germans unlike Kenyans, have not been campaigning for the last many years.
Kenyan politicians never took a break from the 2017 elections, and the intense focus on the elections could have brought some strain in the relations within the winners of the last polls.
Uganda held their elections recently and it was a bloody affair. Soldiers bludgeoned people on the streets, many people were killed, journalists were harassed and never given the space to tell the stories of the elections.
The story in Tanzania was not any different. Indeed, some accuse the government in Dodoma of acquiring undemocratic tendencies as the memory of its founding President- Julius Nyerere, recedes.
The age of free-flowing ideas when Tanzania served as the melting pot of radical and revolutionary thought is no more.
Instead, today Dar es Salaam is morphing into a claustrophobe of free thought. Independent media live in fear and journalists watch over the dots and the t’s in their stories.
So Kenyan journalists do well to watch over their shoulders as they prepare for the elections and hopefully blaze the trail for where the media in this region need to go.
While the media is preparing for the elections, there is no evidence overtly demonstrating that other sectors of society, and the public at large, are getting ready for the elections.
The media is certainly a major stakeholder in elections, but there are others.
There are State agencies, the security network, the civil society, the non-governmental sector and the public at large, who are just as important, and who need to be prepared as well. If they are preparing, then it has been kept a secret.
What journalists need to do in getting ready for the elections is to prepare the nation by framing elections as an everyday activity; comes once in five years and then recedes, the victors are sworn into office and life goes on.
It is on the pages of the newspapers, the prime-time on television, and on the airwaves that elections are framed as do or die activities.
The drama in the headlines, the positioning of the story in the bulletins among others, and the countdowns are all devices that serve to heighten the tension.
Journalism can help play this down – it should be part of the election preparedness.
It is not enough to keep reporting what the candidates say. Keeping the candidates honest through calling out their activities, their statements that may not be honest among others increase the sense of responsibility. Such reportage must start now.
Politicians can’t just be allowed to excite the public without responsibility. Journalists are expected to be responsible, but politicians even more.
We need no more than going back to the basics to keep the country safe. Journalists are demonstrating intent through the trainings.
That must be followed in their actions which will be evidenced in their work. —The writer is dean, School of Communication, Daystar University