Communications Authority of Kenya Director General Francis Wangusi has directed media houses not to announce election results in the period following the casting of ballots on August 8, 2017. While Wangusi’s concerns are legitimate in light of what could happen if media houses announce results that are markedly different from the final figures released by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, a blanket ban on the media by the CA is overreaching its limits.
On election day, media houses traditionally have agents in the field who relay tallies announced at polling stations to their central tallying centres in Nairobi. That is standard practice the world over. In some advanced democracies such as the US and the UK, the media calls elections.
Nobody disputes that the onus of announcing the final tally lies with IEBC, but that does not mean media houses and other interested parties cannot compile a final analysis of what they get from the field. As a matter of fact, media tallies could help identify discrepancies where there are attempts to tamper with the final figures.
There is a very thin line between releasing figures and declaring election results. The Communication Authority should make the distinction to avoid wrongly penalising media houses that keep their audiences abreast of developments in various parts of the country. The media do not just have the freedom to disseminate information, they are self-regulatory. CA should go easy on some of its directives.