Kenyan Bloggers and Election Coverage 2012-13
Last week I had an opportunity to attend an online Journalists and Blogger Training on Elections Coverage and Hate Speech organized by the MediaCouncil of Kenya(MCK) and the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) at KCB Conference facility in Karen.
The training brought together a number of media practitioners from many of the local media fraternity and a number of bloggers (from BAKE) and online journalists with intent to educate and promote adherence to professional journalistic ethics ,code of conduct and the Media Council of Kenya Guidelines for Election Coverage that were adopted by various stakeholders in the industry.
The inclusion of new media practitioners to wit bloggers and online journalists was a ready welcome and a departure from the traditional practice of ignoring and or assuming the role of blogs and other new media platforms that are increasingly shaping societal perceptions in this increasingly digital society.
Amongst the highlights on various themes and subjects that were delved on and that may be a subject of interests to many Kenyan bloggers included:
1. An Introduction to the Media Council it role, ethics, accreditation process, mandate & recent successes. This was developed by the Councils programmes Manager Victor Bwire who clearly articulated the concerns mostly of traditional journalists whom the vast majority operate in lackluster environment and clearly need the intervention of the Council to be able to continue to effectively fulfill l their roles.
2. Commissioner Milly Lwanga of the NCIC thereafter proceeded to highlight features of the National Cohesion and Integration Act of 2008, the mandate of the Commission and salient provisions in the Act. She also focused on online Media and National Cohesion
|Media Council of Kenya Chairman Levi Obonyo on New Media|
3. Churchill Otieno of Nation Media Group focused on Media Convergence and adherence to the Journalistic Principles .He emphasized on the need to adhere to same standards of this across all platforms. For bloggers a pointer I found useful and would like to share is the need for cultural competency i.e. understand the social and cultural make up/background before you post .In many instances many bloggers put up material with little or no regard to the perception of their target audience. It is this unhealthy practice that partly contributed to the chaos that was witnessed during the last general elections. For Traditional Journalist a burning question was left, Is Journalism the possession of a skill set or is it values? I believe this is a ready and ripe question that must also be addressed by new media practitioners/citizen journalists.
4. A Highlight of the Conference was a presentation by Mr. Jackson Cheboi of the NCIC Legal Department and Mr. Stanley Cheruiyot of the Criminal Investigations Department on Freedom of Expression Versus Hate Speech. This was a simply moving and insightful session. The Kenyan Constitution guarantees greater freedoms and human rights enjoyment than many other constitutions in the world however these rights come with responsibilities that encompass our lives both online and offline. Bloggers and other tweeps who abuse the online freedom best be warned. The Kenyan Government knows who you are, where you are from and what your activities are…so better be careful. They are tech savvy ,have the apparatus and are constantly monitoring the digital space for those who believe that they are invincible online, best be warned .It was also somehow assuring to note that some of the people who have been arrested for breaching the Communications Act were actually issued with several warnings to desist before action was taken. It would be fool hardy to think that any Government in this present day and age does not monitor what its Citizens do online…the SOPA act in the USA testifies to this. However a field that readily needs to develop is the curtailing of the use of surveillance to silence or interfere with the right to a measure of privacy and freedom of expression especially in despotic regimes or by persons of similar leanings.
5. Professor Levi Obonyo the Chairman of Media Council of Kenya shared his steady grasp on Citizen Journalism, evolving issues and how to verify information provided by online sources. The Need to attribute sources, verify the veracity and truthfulness of the source was discussed at length.
|Joe Kadhi's Discourse|
6. Finally, a highlight and exponentially educative session was by veteran journalist and USIU Lecturer Joe Kadhi who tried to capture the spirit, meaning, intent and purposes of adhering to the Journalistic Code of Conduct when breaking News Online. Whereas it’s impossible and possibly boring to regurgitate all that he said , interesting tips he gave are:
I. Sources: Always identify your sources, a story is as good as its source, a vague source begets a vague story
II. Make sure your posts are accurate, publish nothing negative without first giving the person the right of reply and make sure you publish the reply.
III. Watch out on your personal activity, for traditional journalists these impacts on the media house they are publish on.
IV. With Respect to Tweets and other online platforms clear the same as soon as they are received. In essence content curate…(just a side note all the media houses seem to have negated on this just look at the hateful comments that fly left right center after every political piece on the websites)remember you are responsible for all content on your page including comments
V. Acceptance of Gifts and Junkets from particular political actors obscures objectivity.
VI. The 5W’s and H of a story: What, Who, When, Where, Why and How?
After the training participants were enlightened as the brief synopsis herein has highlighted. The pictures testify that delving on such issues will greatly enhance the greater use of the digital space in a responsible, peaceable and fulfilling way.