Keep off partisan politics-Media Council of Kenya warns journalists
The following is the full speech by Media Council of Kenya Board Chairman, Mr. Charles Kerich, during a press conference on emerging issues in the media at MCK Boardroom on Wednesday, September 14 2016
Members of the Fourth Estate,
The Media Council of Kenya wishes to address a number of emerging issues touching on the media’s coverage of the campaigns as well as the conduct of journalists during the electioneering period ahead of the 2017 general election.
The Council wishes to advise that media houses must let go of politicians in newsrooms; journalists and media practitioners that have declared affiliation to political parties/movements/groupings or indicated their intentions to vie for elective positions in 2017. The Code of Ethics for the Practice of Journalism in Kenya is very clear on this and related conflict of interest matters.
The Council wishes to request media houses to develop and implement social media policies. To this end, the MCK will work closely with media houses that are yet to put in place such, to develop social media policies.
While journalists, like all other citizens, have rights to be active on social media and by extension enjoy freedom of expression, they should draw the line between personal opinion in private space and walls, and views that suggest that a journalist is biased. It is unrealistic for media practitioners to spew biased opinions on their social media pages, and expect not to be viewed as partisan by people who expect to be covered fairly.
Journalists/media practitioners should avoid openly affiliating with political parties and must be perceived to be neutral. The MCK, which is mandated to accredit all media practitioners in Kenya, will withdraw the accreditation of journalists who want to work for political parties, and this withdrawal will mean that they are not authorized to work as media practitioners in the country.
All parties in a political contest, in the lead up to the elections, deserve to be covered fairly by the media. There are claims, particularly from some counties, that some politicians have influenced journalists to the extent that their competitors do not enjoy any fair coverage, and only make it to the media with negative stories. Media houses are advised to investigate these claims and take appropriate action. In the same vein, the Council wishes to request media houses to establish/ strengthen their public editors’ offices to help deal with such.
The Media Council of Kenya urges all media houses to be cognizant of the welfare of their reporters and correspondents, and to facilitate them adequately in their coverage of political events. The culture of brown envelop journalism, where news sources spend money to obtain favorable coverage, should be highly discouraged through firm action against those breaking the law.
While not strictly confined to political coverage, we are concerned about increasing incidents of journalists being physically attacked and their equipment destroyed. We call for an end to threats, intimidation and attacks on journalists.
The Council will work with relevant offices including the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, Director of Criminal Investigations, Independent Police Oversight Authority and National Police Service to ensure that perpetrators of crimes against media practitioners are dealt with.
Thank you for your kind attention.
Chairman, Media Council of Kenya