Sunday, June 09, 2013

Media Culpa

It is a strange world our media seems to inhabit nowadays. At the end of last week, the Star's weekly pullout, Expression Today, contained what comes perilously close to a collective mea culpa for the coverage of the election.

"We over-trusted the IEBC," NTV Managing Editor declares. The overriding concern of journalists, one of the articles concludes, was "peace," not using election reporting "as an opportunity for national political education" in the words of Ipsos Synovate research Analyst, Tom Wolfe. Capital FM News Editor, Michael Mumo, says he was puzzled by the media downplaying or ignoring events that did not fit into the "peace" narrative (given his job title, one wonders why he should be puzzled at all and who in fact was making the news decisions!) Even the usual apologists seem to accept the media was too busy preventing a repeat of the 2007/2008 violence to actually do its job, though they obviously think that was a good thing.

The pullout criticizes the lack of analysis and discussion of the Supreme Court decision as well as the "sloppy" coverage of the decision of the ICC Prosecutor, Fatou Bensouda, to drop charges against Francis Muthaura and its implications (and that of the other crumbling cases) for the search for justice in Kenya.

Sounds like a good start, eh? But as I read it, I found myself having to constantly refer to the date on the masthead to ensure I was actually reading the most recent edition. For all the navel-gazing, the media is still transfixed by the election period.

If the media truly wants to regain the trust of its audience, it needs to do more than a little self-flagellation. Actual changes must flow from a deeper understanding of, not just failures during the election, but the disturbing trends we have witnessed since.

Like the poor coverage of stories such as the Garissa "anti-terror" operation, the lack on interest in the delays and shenanigans leading to the release of the TJRC report, the blind fascination with the new administration and mindless parroting of government propaganda, the triumph of form over substance, showmanship over journalism, entertainment over information.

Perhaps the media could start to tackle the undisguised misogyny that has become a staple of our news. Like the humiliation of seven young women whom the media publicly accused of bestiality without offering a shred of proof. Like the Nation publishing a suggestion from one of our prominent psychiatrists that victims of sexual abuse may themselves be mentally ill for wishing to report their abusers. Like TV anchors seeing the funny side of a woman being stripped in public for supposedly dressing indecently. Like the recent article that observed that though still "wonderful, colourful creatures," women still need men to help them run companies and to presumably cheer the inevitable cat-fights.

How about they query articles such as Jacob Ng'etich's who, writing in the Standard, has produce a glowing rendition of Deputy President William Ruto's rise to power absent any mention of the shadowy moments of that career: the allegations of corruption, the charges of crimes against humanity for allegedly funding and organising murderous militia during the 2007/8 post election violence.

The truth is our press has much to seek forgiveness for. But before they get that, a full and honest audit of their performance to date, as well as a commitment to doing things better, is the least we should demand.


Unknown said...

well said man, actually I had switched off local stations and was watching cnn bbc aljazeera and the like, I am really disappointed in our local media industry, after they've been denied entry to parliament to cover events its now that they can see some sense, shame on them

Unknown said...

You make some very valid points about media and how it can be single sided but mind you, some media houses are trying really hard to even have the show of authenticity. If you were to be sentenced to watiching Ugandan TV stations, you'd immediately blot out record of Kenyan Media's sins.