In pursuit of its mandate to promote high professional standards amongst journalists, the Media Council of Kenya last week held a two-day training workshop for radio presenters/ programme hosts in the Coast region in Mombasa on conflict-sensitive election reporting and moderation.
The training was conducted in co-operation with Friedrich Ebert and was a pilot-project with the aim to extend training to other regions before the next general elections.
The workshop provided general information on journalists´ ethics and responsibilities. Journalists were taken through the Code of Conduct for the Practice of Journalism (as enshrined in the Second Schedule of the Media Act 2007) as well as the election coverage guidelines that have just been updated by MCK in cooperation with other media stakeholders.
The main focus of the workshop was to provide hands-on practical moderation training on how to deal with hate-speech and inflammatory remarks by callers and how to host talk-shows in a conflict-sensitive manner.
The training came against the background of the ambivalent role the Kenyan media played during the election campaigns in 2007 and the following post-election violence. On the one hand they supported voter education and scrutinised the actions of politicians and election committee officials to ensure free and fair elections. On the other hand they also provided a platform for misinformation and propaganda. The vernacular FM stations especially have been accused of disseminating dangerous propaganda and hate-speech through their live talk-shows and call-in programmes.
A current survey about the performance of vernacular radio stations carried out by the Media Council of Kenya came to the conclusion that chief-editors and radio managers are actually well aware of the impact of inflammatory speech and the importance of well trained radio journalists and presenters. However, recent monitoring of selected FM stations in the coast area shows that prime time talk-shows contain inciting comments of both callers and radio presenters on a regular basis. Many radio anchors still seem to lack adequate journalistic professional training and skills.
Prior to the training, the Council held a press conference where it sounded the alarm over unbalanced political coverage by radio stations at the Coast.
“We have received worrying reports concerning four radio stations at the Coast that are airing content and practising unbalanced reporting in a manner that is likely to propagate conflict,” MCK chairman Prof Levi Obonyo told journalists.
He also advised media owners and politicians who own media stations to comply with the Media Act 2007.