Journalism must be voice of reason as polls near

By , People Daily Digital
Tuesday, January 11th, 2022 08:15 | 2 mins read
Mombasa journalists at work. Photo/PD/COURTESY

Kenya has entered the penultimate stage of its political evolution, with only seven months before the most closely watched election since Daniel arap Moi’s exit from the stage, 20 years ago.

Now more than any other time in recent history, Kenyan journalism must rise to the occasion and become the voice of reason and defender of the freedom and progress that citizens are yearning for.

During these emotive times when the political temperatures have risen to toxic levels, it is the solemn duty of journalists to defend all freedoms and vigorously propagate the truth for the sake of democracy and national cohesion.

Our political environment is replete with wanton cunningly couched rhetoric in the guise of presidential election campaigns.  Sweeping statements and outrageous promises to a gullible public, mostly excited youth, deserves closer scrutiny from the media.

The situation is muddled by the Covid-19 pandemic whose impacts on our lives, health systems, economy and livelihoods have left us in a situation praying for mature politics and sober reflection, to unite and get us out of the quagmire.

For some candidates in the presidential race, capturing the highest seat on the land has become a fanatical obsession buoyed by ethnic grounded political party mobilization and denigration of rivals. 

While it is the right of every individual to gun for the presidency, the self-centred aggressive tone of anger and spite directed at opponents, including those one has closely worked with at the highest political and state level raises many questions as to the real intentions of those seeking that office.

It is a recipe for national divisions that can take root in our society unless journalists, as the public watchdog, step out to prevent this breed of politicians from normalising what is grossly abnormal.  

It defies logic to ridicule political affiliations in negative ethnic connotations that could easily stoke class wars, yet we know all political parties in Kenya are grounded on ethnicity, backed by a coterie of rabble rousing politicians from other regions!

That is why journalist must robustly interrogate the lofty claims and promises some politicians are making.

The media should not let those taking advantage of the rampant social media and inherent weaknesses in the craft of journalism to peddle cheap propaganda and outright lies.

We still remember when the then most powerful person in the world Donald Trump became the classic epitome of this deceit, declaring war on democracy, the truth and journalism whose ramifications rumble to this date.

Journalists must rally regardless of their stations and find allies in academia, business and citizens (Wanjiku), using their platforms to dispel disinformation and educate the people on moral, political and economic choices they can make in this historic election.

The media needs to collectively defend freedom of the press and freedom of expression. Kenyan journalists must follow up on this collective duty to guard against false prophets of political salvation and economic liberation.

The winner-takes-it-all attitude that is the bane of our nationhood, an anathema to fighting disunity, corruption and economic stagnation, must be banished forever.

It is simple, let us get down to the basics and together spin the wheels of information to fight ignorance, disease and poverty that haunt us, nearly 60 years after independence.

The media and free speech cannot constantly play defence. Going on the attack against misinformation and cheap socio-economic politics, we must remember that we are not at war – we are at work. [email protected]

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