By KEVIN M MABONGA
The Media Council of Kenya in collaboration with the International Media Support (IMS) conducted trainings on reporting Terrorism and Countering Violent Extremism (CVE) for journalists and security officers. The trainings were held in Mombasa from 30th May to 1st June, 2016 at Voyager Hotel and Malindi from 2nd to 4th June 2016 at Turtle Bay Hotel. These trainings were carried out with the aim of mitigating the adversarial relationship between the media and security agencies.
Dr. Haron Mwangi, the Chief Executive of MCK reminded participants that both the media and security sector aim to serve public interest. “We must always observe our respective professional Code of Ethics to ensure that our country is secured.” Dr. Mwangi said.
Mwenda Njoka, the Spokesperson, Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government led a session on Media Freedom and National security. He called on the media and security officers to complement each other. “It is important for security sector and media to consider each other as partners”. Said Mr. Njoka.
A total of 50 participants, 30 journalists and 20 security officers, attended the three-day trainings. In both trainings, the first two days were dedicated to presentations on relevant topics and group work while the dialogues between security officers and journalists were held on the third day. The participants shared their experiences and challenges they face in line of duty.
Journalists pointed out intimidation, mistrust, difficulty in accessing information in good time and their general safety as the major challenges when following stories on terrorism and violent extremism. Security officers on the other hand stated that journalists often publish misleading or/and unverified information ,only focus on the negative side of security officers and are always impatient as far as following the right channel to get information.
It was however agreed that both journalists and security officers need each other. While media need reliable and timely information on terrorism and extremism, they need to work in harmony with the police to ensure that access to vital information is facilitated easily.
Key topics discussed included the Ethical challenges of covering Terrorism; The nexus between freedom of expression and national security; Media Freedom versus National security.
Journalists were also taken through the draft manual with an aim of improving it. They shared some of the important areas they felt were left out. The sessions were led by MCK Deputy CEO, Victor Bwire.
“This training couldn’t have come at a better time. I now understand how security officers operate,’ one journalist noted.
Participants suggested for frequent joint trainings between security officers and journalists.
In its mandate of dispute resolution and media monitoring, the Council established that there was escalating acrimony between the media and security agencies in relation to coverage of terrorism and Countering Violent Extremism in Kenya coupled with simmering public disquiet about professional conduct of media especially when it comes to coverage of security issues.
The Council and IMS will host Editors and representatives from the security sector led by Dr. Eng. Karanja Kibicho (CBS), the Principal Secretary State Department of Interior in the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of the National Government from 29th – 31st July 2016