Deputy President and Kenya Kwanza Coalition presidential candidate William Ruto has announced that he will boycott the presidential debate over biased coverage by leading media houses. The Director of Communications in Deputy President William Ruto’s Campaign, Hussein Mohammed, said unless the leading media stations reform their coverage of the election, Mr Ruto will not honour the debate.
In a statement dated Thursday, June 2, Mohammed pointed out Citizen TV, Inooro TV, Inooro FM and The Daily Nation among the most notorious media houses in biased reporting against Ruto. By implication, he believes his rival and Azimio La Umoja candidate, Raila Odinga, is being favoured by media houses either by length of coverage or tone.
Dr Ruto has found himself in opposition territory after falling out with President Uhuru Kenyatta who has shown preference for Odinga as his successor. Media houses that have traditionally favoured Odinga are Standard (and KTN) as well as Citizen TV and its sister radio stations.
Ruto hopes this threat will whip media houses into allocating him more airtime and newspaper space and reporting positively about his campaigns and party. But in a media industry dominated by private players, his call will likely fall on deaf ears. SK Macharia, who owns Citizen TV, is a close Raila friend, while Standard and KTN are controlled by the late President Moi’s family through Baringo Senator Gideon Moi, who is supporting Odinga for President.
Mediamax, owned by Uhuru family controls The People Daily and K24 TV as well as Milele and Kameme FM, while TV47 is owned by Mount Kenya University Chairman Prof Simon Gicharu.
The statement added that the stations had breached the statutory terms of their licenses as well as constitutional freedoms through the unequal allocation of coverage, and negative framing of the UDA presidential candidate and his associates.
“We wish to highlight the notorious instance of runaway ábuse of public bandwidth by Royal Media Services a licensee which has converted its platforms, especially Citizen TV, Inooro TV and Inooro Radio to official campaign mouthpieces of the Azimio La Umoja. The Daily Nation complements these abuses by becoming their print counterpart.
“Under the current partisan media environment, we have advised our candidate against participating in the presidential debate,” the statement read in part.