Polls debate affirms media sector role in national discourses

Media Council of Kenya CEO David Omwoyo. [David Gichuru, Standard]

With the General Election just three months away, media industry players are sparing no effort in putting together this year’s presidential and running mates’ debates. 

In what has become customary in leading democracies around the world, the debates, we believe, are a game-changer in many respects. Besides offering a golden opportunity to Kenyans to vet candidates during interactive live debates, the man and women contesting get a chance to defend their candidatures by offering a peek into their agenda. 

The overriding goal is to promote citizen participation, democracy and issue-based election campaigns.

Towards this mission, the Media Council of Kenya (MCK), the Media Owners Association and the Kenya Editors’ Guild (KEG) launched a steering committee for the debates on March 2. 

A secretariat was also launched. Preparations for the debates are on course, with secretariat meeting regularly to plan. 

In the MCK election preparedness work plan, supported and funded by the government and other local and international partners, MCK seeks to undertake several activities to support the sector through stakeholders and approaches including support to the presidential and running mates’ debates and local based debates through county media outlets on governorship, senatorial and Woman Rep debates. 

It is worth noting that more than 200 radios and television stations and digital media outlets though legally recognised by MCK are not members of the Editors Guild or the Media Owners Association are therefore not part of the national debates. 

Having received requests from several media associations and professional groups to assist in organising local language debates for various seats, MCK requested some of them to nominate persons to sit in a technical group to coordinate themselves and approached other interest entities to join the initiative.

The council wrote to Joe Mucheru, ICT CS on March 7, 2022, forwarding names from within the media landscape and requesting for gazettement of the same. 

This was done vide Kenya Gazette 3833 of April 8, 2022. The Cabinet Secretary did not alter the list forwarded to his office. The Council is therefore co-convenor and member to both the presidential debates secretariat and local media debates working group where both logistical and financial resources have been dedicated. 

MCK works closely and is guided by several laws and institutions established among them the ICT ministry, through which the council reports to the National Assembly and other oversight bodies.

None of these institutions has attempted to interfere with MCK independence. We’re committed to working with and bringing together media stakeholders.  

-The writer is Media Council of Kenya CEO. Email: [email protected]