Public interest a sure pathway to media viability

Monday, December 21st, 2020 00:00 |
Msambweni voters pick leader in mini election.

The world we live in today is so mediatised that when something is not communicated to us via some sort of mass medium, then it did not happen.

Take recent political happenings in Msambweni Constituency for instance. We are more informed of the unfortunate responses by a few political leaders who majored on the frivolous because that is what is in our mediated public sphere.

Political pundits have analysed and dissected the by elections and they all seem to be unanimous that it was a three tiered contests.

The first, between the Rt Hon Raila Odinga and his political rival Deputy President, the second between Governor Ali Hassan Joho and his Kwale counterpart Salim Mvurya and then of course the contest between Omar Boga and the eventual winner Feisal Bader.   

You see, when politicians are seeking elections, they come to us with manifestoes and strategic plans and we give them the power to allocate and distribute resources.

This power is given for some limited period of time and we even have the power to recall elected leaders.

In the five years that these politicians are exercising this power, we depend on the media for credible information to ascertain the extent to which these politicians are allocating and distributing resources with fidelity to the rule of law and public interests. 

The media does not have to tell us who to give the power and who not to give, but they certainly have a duty to give us credible and exhaustive information to help us make that decision.

We have this social trust contract with the legacy media and we expect it to play a public interest role by setting the right agenda for the citizenry. 

In Kwale for instance, the bulk of what Governor Mvurya has done over the last few years, especially in the education sector has endeared him to the public and even if we want to run away from the truth, it did play a big role in Bader’s win.

There might be other underlying factors, and going by the clips doing rounds on social media platforms, we can have a thousand and one interpretations of who won and why and what factors and all that.

But all we need is to have the trust we have in the media reciprocated. Look at it this way, Kenyans need a much more nuanced understanding of the dynamics in Kwale and how the governors’ development programs, centred on citizen participation played a role.

This would inform pathways for evaluating other governors and probably start the journey toward issues based politics.

The robust gatekeeping functions of the legacy media can go a long way and dig deep, get the data and facts and inform Kenyans.

We need to inculcate the culture of evaluating the political class on the basis of how they have delivered to the citizenry.

It is thus incumbent upon the credible media that we have to give us that global picture based on three key things.

What the politicians promised as they were campaigning; two, the extent to which they have delivered on what they promised and three, how they have done that within the rule of law and in the interest of the public.

Such success stories or lack thereof when told about different politicians will go a long way in inculcating some sense of citizenship and understanding of who to give power and who not to give. 

The digital disruption and the Covid-19 pandemic have hit the media hard and maybe the pathways to viability is in a bold media system that will dethrone the political elites and shape the political discourse from a public interest dimension.

The media in Kenya has struggled to unshackle itself from the eco-political structure set up by the political and corporate elites.  [email protected]

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