It is the political season in Kenya. This five-year cycle comes with its fair share of shenanigans, not to mention the usual tension due to heightened political temperatures. But somehow we manage. It is only during the controversial 2007 General Election that the nation actually stood on the precipice due to the subsequent deadly violence that led to over 1,000 deaths.
Now, whether we learnt our lessons or not is still a matter of conjecture. However, our politicians are still wont to make inflammatory statements that border on treason. Luckily, citizens are maturing faster politically than their leaders. People seem to be gradually internalizing the fact that their lives are not worth putting on the line for the eventual selfish interests of an individual.
Various reports produced by various players in the aftermath of the 2007/2008 post-election violence, including The Independent Review Commission by South Africa Justice Johann Kriegler and the Kenya National Human Rights Commission, pointed at the media as one of the igniting factors of the clashes. That is how Joshua arap Sang, then working as a KASS FM presenter, ended up at the International Criminal Court at The Hague as one of the top six culprits. He was accused of using coded vernacular to direct organized goons to their victims in the then Rift Valley Province.
This necessitated the government, through the Media Council of Kenya (MCK), to come up with a code of ethics aimed at regulating political advertising in both print and electronic media. The MCK Guidelines for Election Coverage (March 2017), which was compiled and revised by a team of local media practitioners, contains a raft of 21 rules for those planning to use the media to formally propagate their political ideologies.
Representatives of mainstream media houses signed the document committing themselves to the guidelines as appertains to rights and responsibilities, harm and offence, content and formats, and implementation. Newspapers went further to customize the guidelines and are now publishing them regularly as a guide to purveyors of political messages. Of course, electronic media stations are also following the same rules.
This is quite a noble initiative. Basically, the guidelines are based on taste, decency, professionalism, and the whole ethical sphere. It is about taking care of the small things that can escalate and blow out of proportion, and their meaning and objectives abused or misconstrued.
But for the political advertising guidelines to be effective, they must be girded by strong journalism ethics. Students of media and public relations will tell you that editorials and placement are more lethal than paid for advertisements or infomercials. A nuanced news item can have more impact than a direct message, as the former is seen as more credible due to the implication it is devoid of any commercial considerations.
Also by this author
- The world of social media that’s is swallowing everyone
- Ezekiel Mutua can do a better job at policing media
- The end of The Trend show by Larry Madowo?
Journalism has the ability to pass subtle messages through the use of imagery and idioms. This is more pronounced in vernacular media, especially radio and TV. It is, therefore, critical that the government recruits experts to discern commentaries and news items broadcasted by the mushrooming vernacular stations.
Already, there are a couple of international development partners who have started programs to monitor and analyse political content being published and broadcasted in our media houses. Although there are no official results released yet from these programs, indications are that some media houses are, either deliberately or inadvertently, carrying hate speech in their programming during this electoral period.
People who plan to create and spread chaos will always target the mass audience for indoctrination. Look at countries where genocide has taken place. In Germany, for example, Fuhrer Adolf Hitler was adept at demagoguery, which passed on to the people as factual information on the reasons of their poor plight. When he started the pogroms against the Jews, the German society simply cheered him on.
Maize flour ad has negative meaning
May be I am also reading too much into some electronic media commercials, which I find tinged with political messages. It simply sounds as our normal ethnic stereotyping, characterized by our lingual and behavioural idiosyncrasies. One of these is a TV commercial advertising a brand of maize meal. Its two protagonists come from Rift Valley and Western provinces.
The message revolves around the selfishness of the Western gentleman, who lies to his friend from the Rift (a neighbouring province), that he is not in his house during lunch time so that he does not share his big mound of ugali. The ad implies that the former is mean and a liar. There are different ways you could read this ad politically, none of them positive.
Therefore, political advertising is not as overt as it appears. There is need to interrogate the subliminal messages that are broadcast or published using covert manipulative strategies. Media authorities need to employ the services of psychologists to bring out such messaging in various media channels.
Align Kenya’s political system with global standards
There is need to ensure that our system is in line with international best practice especially as they relate to...
Kitui County embroiled in models ‘sex scandal’
At least 16 models have dismissed the crowning of four winners at a beauty pageant held last month
Kenya not yet fully a free democracy, new report says
While a full report on the country's performance is not yet available online, a summary of the report notes that...
Family of five perishes in Juja inferno
Police said a woman, three children - all aged below 10 years, and a man were found early Tuesday morning
Americans urged to support conservation
Conservation of nature in many countries in Africa contributes significantly to sustainable rural community livelihoods
It’s business as usual, Mike Sonko says
He dismissed reports that Igathe called it quits last Friday following disagreements arising from implementation of key projects and award...
Police mum on theft of State House furniture
Nakuru OCPD Samuel Obara told the press that only police headquarters in Nairobi or State House spokesman Manoah Esipisu can...
Uncertain future for 100 police officers recalled from NTSA
The Director of Personnel at Vigilance House, the Kenya Police Service nerve centre, Boniface Maingi asked the commanders to send...
Fred Matiang’i: Second most powerful man after President Uhuru
The no-nonsense Cabinet Secretary has become Uhuru Kenyatta's Mr Fix It in government affairs in the processing getting big ministries...
Jubilee script goes haywire as Igathe quits
Details on boardroom rifts started emerging when Sonko shared screenshots of private Whatsapp conversations with his deputy as he fought...