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Kenyan journalists gear up for polls duty

By Geoffrey Mosoku | Published Mon, March 20th 2017 at 16:21, Updated March 20th 2017 at 16:29 GMT +3

More than 50 journalists who mainly cover politics are readying themselves for the August 8 General Election through various trainings.

The scribes, who registered a profession association, don’t want to take any chances ahead of the polls and have promised to be professional and neutral as campaigns take off.

Political Journalists Association of Kenya (PJAK), which is a professional body that brings together journalists covering politics across various channels, was established in December 2015.

It is a group of journalists dedicated to taking their role to the next level by ensuring their reporting adds value to the lives of citizens. They are keen on giving information that helps shape their political decisions and enhance growth through democracy.

The main objective behind the formation of PJAK is to empower journalists through training and facilitation for further education.

Currently, it has 50 members fully registered and accredited by the Media Council of Kenya (MCK) and who ply their trade within Kenya.

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“We endeavour to seek partnerships from local and international organisations that support democracy, governance, ethics and free, fair, transparent elections,” Secretary General Rawlings Otieno of the Standard Group says.

PJAK has organised a number of trainings outside Nairobi to increase the competences, skills and knowledge of political journalists especially for the forthcoming polls.

PJAK chairman Isaac Ongiri of the Nation Media Group says its important to have reporters trained in order to expose them to polling season realities and new ideas that may relate to the coming elections.

“Every election comes with new challenges and mostly fresh dimension’s, new laws, new candidates, new journalists and in this case even a new electoral commission. Through the trainings we hope to re-energise our professionalism and plead for fair reporting despite challenges that may include ethnic sympathy from among media practitioners who think parties and candidates associated with communities they come from are best or should not be criticised,” Ongiri says.

“This coming election is very dynamic and will be highly contest and thus as journalists our common goal is to ensure objective reporting. Media ownership, commercial and political vested interests are major challenges journalists face but this forum provides an opportunity for us to encourage each other but also to critique our works,” Capita FM’s Judy Kaberia and association vice chair adds.

Treasurer and Citizen TV reporter Francis Gachuri says political journalists have a great role to play in shaping governance narrative, adding that they are the medium through which Kenyans interact with their elected and appointed leaders.

He says empowered journalists will translate to an empowered population arguing that the platform serves also as an avenue of mentoring upcoming journalists interest in current affairs and political issues.

“As we head to the elections, political journalists have a greater role in reporting and analysing manifestos, promises and agenda of various candidates and political parties t enable the electorate make informed choices at the ballot,” Gachuri adds.

The first training took place at Enashapai in which the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) took journalists through its functions and explained the election processes and timelines. Konrad Adeneur Foundation in partnership with Centre for Multiparty Democracy (CMD) trained the political journalists on stemming voter bribery in Kenya and data journalism among others.

And now with the support of United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO), the association is organising a training on elections reporting, processes, media, propaganda and election malpractices. The training is set for Naivasha this coming weekend.