Capital FM (Nairobi)

Kenyan Journalists Defend Election Coverage

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The journalist insisted that a measure of caution was a sign of responsible reporting.

"Can you imagine if we started running headlines about elections being rigged? What would have happened?" he asked. "There was already too much tension across the country. I thank all my colleagues for being responsible and interrogating allegations made before rushing to flash headlines."

Gaitho, too, said that the media was right to refuse to publicise allegations of rigging made by politicians who did not present evidence that this was true.

"I remember talking to one fellow - and he was very certain that the election was stolen - I asked him, 'Bring me the evidence and I promise I will publish the story'. But what he brought was his views," Gaitho said. "We cannot simply publish because somebody feels aggrieved, then starts blaming the media for not reporting."

Macharia attributed the media's professionalism to the large amount of training carried out on election and conflict reporting in the run-up to the elections.

"We had so many trainings way before the election so that we didn't repeat the mistakes of the last election. We had to [inform] radio presenters [about] what is fair and safe to air live," he said.

Shitemi Khamadi of Internews, an international media development organisation, echoed concerns that the media held back from quizzing the IEBC.

He said journalists took this approach because they were worried what the public reaction would be to allegations of malpractice.

Ahead of these elections, media owners and editors signed a code of conduct to guard against their journalists fanning violence, as happened five years ago. Media outlets were asked to avoid reporting in a manner liable to incite the public. They were also asked not to conduct their own vote tallies as they did in 2007, but instead to rely on the IEBC official tallies.

Speeches that candidates made before the results were announced were not broadcast live.

Khamadi said the charges against Arap Sang at the ICC did not just prompt journalists to err on the side of caution, but encouraged them to exercise self-censorship.

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