February 21st 2018

Media / Watchdog

Media Houses should black-out hate mongers to save Kenya

If the recent developments in the media’s style of covering the intense political campaigns and the kind of asymmetrical interviews, particularly on the broadcasting platforms is anything to go by, then there’re all indicators pointing to the Fourth Estate’s predisposition to glorify mediocrity.

By Athanas Kipchumbaakipchumba@kenyafreepress.comSaturday, 15 Jul 2017 14:17 EAT

The forthcoming election that has been billed as the grandmother of all elections in the recent history of Kenya is just within a screaming distance. All and sundry is eagerly and enthusiastically looking forward to cast their vote as a way of expressing themselves on how the future leadership should be.

Proper governance guarantees creation of massive opportunities (in terms of employment) for the masses, most of whom are currently basking in the scorching sun of joblessness while others struggle to unshackle themselves from the chains of high cost of living, the risks of becoming the victims of the sweeping industrial and corporate redundancy triggered by unhealthy economic performance and so forth.

Yes, let’s candidly ask ourselves this question: Who bears the colossal responsibility for our national economic troubles, erosion of our once sound social-cultural beliefs and pollution of our political environment?

When I look at the mirror of reality, I see the media contributing greatly towards the messy situation we find ourselves in. How, you ask. Well, though it depends on every media house’s news coverage policies and the obvious ‘pursuit of the coin’, I feel like public interest has been relegated. As the public watchdog and trusted source of information, the Fourth Estate has actually let its consumers down.

This is evidenced by the manner in which the journalists highlight the challenges Kenyans are confronted with routinely like the biting Unga[maize flour] deficiency, the protracted nurses strikes that have paralyzed operations in Public hospitals(at counties), lecturers’ downing of tools and etc. The coverage of these issues has been so scanty that giving it prominence during the primetime news or on the front pages of the local newspapers is almost impossible. Or a pipe dream.

It’s like the media would rather give the political leviathan’s sneeze the news prominence than an Al Shabaab attack that claimed a dozen lives. Disappointing indeed, isn’t it?

Recently, the author of the hard-hitting book, Peeling Back the Mask, Mr Miguna Miguna lambasted the media for idolizing mediocrity by failing to sift information journalistically before feeding the information-famished masses… In the NTV’s Amlive talk show hosted by Debarl Inea, political analyst and Advocate Joshua Kiptoo who defended the embattled high court judge for doing commendable job, lashed out at media for reporting about the court’s judgement on the tendering of the printing of the ballot papers in a manner that suggested one side of the political divide [NASA] won as opposed to the people of Kenya in general.

In all good consciences, media has the greatest influence in every society throughout the world. By hosting politicians whose input in the national discourse serves to advance divisive and vested goals on popular talk shows - which is a common practice today, the media is doing a disservice to its audience.

It will be unfair for me to sweep under the carpet the fact that media delights in covering controversial stories peppered with melodramatic propensities. And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that. Oftentimes these highly choreographed controversies are created by mediocre people especially from the political pool. Is there any problem when entertaining political theatrics are reported once and let to pass like a cloud so as to pave way for serious and weighty issues of national importance to be covered, and perhaps discussed in detail?

Serious media balances business with public interests. Now that it has reinvented itself to be an agent of peace, why does it find it an uphill task to ‘black-out’ political hatemongers and inflammatory political remarks that have already dashed our hopes for the assurance of post-poll peace? Mediocrity.

If the recent developments in the media’s style of covering the intense political campaigns and the kind of asymmetrical interviews, particularly on the broadcasting  platforms is anything to go by, then there’re all indicators pointing to the Fourth Estate’s predisposition to glorify mediocrity.

When I introduced to a journalist friend the debate surrounding the idea of giving politicians total blackout or denying them prominence at the primetime news with a view to concentrate on weighty issues of huge impacts on the lives of Kenyans, I was appalled by his response and arguments. It simply meant that I should stop banging my head against the brick wall. He challenged me to find out who the owners of the media houses are…

My good friend went ahead to propose that I should think of taking that argument to academic debate halls. Yes, perhaps that’s where the discourse should begin. A food for thought.

Despite the encumbrances and oddities that come with the idea of giving, at least, temporary black out to our irresponsible politicians with the clear intention of according prominence the stories that highlights weighty issues of national significance, I still hold the opinion that the media should rise above the inclination of idolizing mediocrity.  

Impartial intellectuals and analysts of character who have demonstrably been championing for noble national causes, which I may not mention in the interest of space and time deserves sizeable chunk of airtime and space on the media platforms. It would be unwise to ignore their rare thoughts which could form the basis of vibrant policy formulation in our inchoate democracy. But, is anyone listening?

Kipchumba is a staff writer/columnist at the Kenya Free Press

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