By Kevin Mabonga
As part of the preparations for the 2017 General elections, the Media Council of Kenya (MCK), supported by UNDP brought together stakeholders in the media industry to review the elections reporting guidelines that was first published in April 2012.The workshop was held on 21st January 2017 at Sentrim Elementaita Lodge. The team comprised of senior editors, representatives from IEBC, Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ), Kenya Editors Guild (KEG), Kenya Correspondents Association (KCA), and Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK), the alternative media, academia among others.
The guidelines are aimed at helping journalists to practice responsible journalism-provide comprehensive, accurate, impartial, balanced and fair coverage of the elections, thus enabling the voter to make informed choices. Some of the key areas it addresses include Balance and fairness, Gender balance and diversity of voices, Conflict-sensitive journalism, Opinion polls, equitable coverage, and Voter education. It also addresses emerging issues in the media such as fake news, fact checking and social media.
Media Council Chief Executive Dr. Haron Mwangi underscored the importance of the exercise noting that a number of things had changed since 2013 thus the need for the document to be reviewed. He pointed out the emergence of fake news, opinion polls reportage, safety and security of journalists and lack of experienced scribes in the newsrooms as areas of concern.
Addressing the participants Charles Kerich, the Chairman, Media Council of Kenya said the guidelines would come in handy during the electioneering period. He said that it was important that the document be disseminated effectively to ensure that the target audience is reached. He applauded media stakeholders for supporting the Council whenever they are called upon. He encouraged members to be active members of the Council. “The Council is there because of you and therefore feel free to share views that would make us improve. “He lauded UNDP for supporting the Council on various projects.
The recommendations will be shared with all the journalists accredited by the Council for their input before the final draft is developed. It is expected that media enterprises will commit to the document when it will be officially launched in February 2017.