OF PRUDENCE AND PEACE
“You’re miserable, edgy and tired. You’re in the perfect mood for journalism.”
― Warren Ellis
Welcome to the world that constantly reminds me of an article I read titled “the More we saw, the less we knew.” It was about the coverage of the Gulf war and the role that the media played in it. I cannot recall all the details right now but arguments around that article were about the balancing act the media plays in reporting issues that are of National interest.
I just read Michela Wrong’s piece on Kenyan media and the 2013 presidential polls, and in it, I read a story of a bored foreign journalist caught up in little or no war to report on. Or one caught flat footed at Kenyans finally getting a voice that is loud enough for the world to hear.
Ms. Wrong’s article reminded me of this TED Talk by the BBC’s Komla Dumor on how to (or not) report about Africa.
The 2013 presidential elections were marked by heavy presence of international media, who were perhaps gearing for great TV like the blood bath that marked 2007 polls.
Allow me to remind foreign press that Kenya has had a number of elections since 1963, mostly peaceful, but with pockets of politically driven violence in a number of areas, mostly in the rift valley, as Kikuyu and Kalenjin brought to the fore the land issues than run too deep, in the Tana River and a few other areas in the Coast province. The smaller scale of that violence should not in any way purport that it was acceptable. But those issues cannot be solved by election violence.
You will remember Michela Wrong from her book; “It is our time to eat,” based on whistle blower John Githongo’s expose about the Anglo leasing scandal. I wrote this article about John Githongo’s return way back then, and I still stand by it.
I would also like to remind her, along with other foreign journalists in Africa, that being a reporter in Africa does not make you an expert in African matters.
Unfortunately, the world doesn’t think so. All you need to do is Google or Bing Michela and a number of international correspondents in Africa and see how many interviews they get from across the world based on their reportage in Africa. Then flip the coin and look at how many African journalists are interviewed by foreign press on the same.
In many ways, after reading this article by Ms. Wrong, I relate her to the Somali, Kenyan or Ethiopian goat herder being the expert about the U.S fiscal cliff. If the sarcasm irks you, you can always close this page.
I will not in any way say that Kenyan media covered the elections in the most partial and credible manner, but I will say, like the Kenyan that I am, it was an effort that was laudable by any means possible.
To insinuate that the Kenyan media is corrupt, covered news that favored one candidate would require some sort of evidence, which she does not quote in her article. In fact, for many, the coverage was great until there was an election petition. Then one side of supporters began to believe that media was influenced by the opposing side.
I would like to her to tell us if there were journalists that had evidence of malpractice that were told by their reports could not be aired. If there is any, then perhaps that IEBC and Media narrative must be investigated further.
Brown envelopes exchanged or not; Today’s Kenyan newsroom and that brown envelope have changed quite a bit.
Here’s an expert from Mars group about the role of the media in 2007, 2008 PEV. Perhaps it will create the argument that backed the “gentleman’s agreement’ you talk about in 2013.
“We are seeing a situation where politicians create a problem, politicians promote violence, politicians incite the people and then when things do not go their way they start to blame the media. That ban as we all know was unconstitutional, it was illegal; the Editor’s Guild joined up with the Media Institute and went to court and just before the hearing the Attorney General, the government, revoked the ban and we went back to live broadcasting and what was not acknowledged during that period is the role, very positive role the media played in calming tensions.”
When you see hundreds of thousands of Kenyans taking the polls as a personal priority even after the hell that broke loose In 2007, there is something bubbling underneath the social strata that ropes in responsible journalism, which in your article, you refer to as “partial.”
And Journalists see that too. They live in a country that bore the brunt of an election gone mad. That balancing act sometimes can get tipped in any way possible.
However, Kenyan Journalist s have the same responsibilities that did not allow American journalists and TV stations to show dead Americans in Iraq.
Sometimes journalism 101 gets over taken by the interests of the state.
It is in many ways a time when what you call a gentleman’s agreement was a weighing scale that measured the peace and economic future of an entire country vis-a-vis the telling of anxiety that couldn’t really be filmed, as really, nothing had happened yet.
Mombasa’s incident of possible MRC involvement in the Killing of police officers and a few others was a disturbing case, but when a country is teetering over egg shells, then the messenger must play a role, and attempt to balance that with being the people’s guard dog. Kenyan journalists did not lie to Kenyans. Yes, they decided not cover live political press conferences as the tallies were going on, does that make it to the books of bad journalism? I think not.
And No, Ms. Wrong, Foreign Journalists were not threatened with deportation:
Here is part of the statement the Government issued as a warning to foreign journalists. If you see something “wrong” (pun intended) with people working illegally in the country, then you need law 101 as well.
“Nairobi — The Ministry of Information and Communication has warned foreign journalists who are working illegally in the country that they risk deportation.”
By all means, Ms. Wrong;
“Journalism largely consists in saying “Lord Jones is dead” to people who never knew Lord Jones was alive.”
― G.K. Chesterton
Get of your high horse, Africa can speak for itself.