Journalists, bloggers and social media activists have been urged to play a constructive role in ensuring the upcoming general elections in August are peaceful and credible.
Secretary of the Strategic Initiatives Unit, Cabinet Affairs in the Executive Office of the President Mr. Mukhtar Abdi Ogle said the powerful influence of journalists and social media activists should be deployed well to mitigate conflict and counter incitement to violence before, during and after the polls.
“We appreciate the influence of traditional and social media on Kenyans. As we approach elections, we want them to be at the forefront of championing for peaceful and credible elections. We need to be partners for peace irrespective of political persuasions,” he said.
He added: “We would like election issues to be reported responsibly without inflaming negative inter-communal passions and violence as it happened in the election violence of 2007/8.”
He was speaking during the just-concluded training for journalists and bloggers on best practices of reporting and commenting on the upcoming polls.
The training was organised by the Executive Office of the President in collaboration with the Aga Khan University’s Graduate School of Media and Communications in Nairobi.
The 3-day training, dubbed ”Media Practitioners , Bloggers and Social Media Activists Training Forum For Peaceful Elections,” touched on topics such as covering controversial issues, voter education, social media editorial guidelines, spotting fake news on social media and reflections on the post-election violence of 2007/8 among others.
Mr. Ogle requested media practitioners, bloggers and social media activists to focus on influencing youths away from violence and incitement during the electioneering period.
“The architects of conflicts in our respective communities are mainly young people. We don’t want them to be brainwashed and misused to commit or incite violence. If somebody comes to incite them let them be champions of peace and say no to violence,” he said.
He added: “There is no dignity in violence and the more reason each Kenyan must zealously guard our national pride of peace, unity and be each other’s keeper.”
Ogle also urged Kenyans to participate actively in the political process including campaigning and voting for their leaders of choice without undermining peace and unity of the country.
On his part, Reverend Dr. Samuel Kobia, the senior advisor of President Uhuru Kenyatta on matters of peace, cohesion, and conflict resolution expressed concerns about heightening unhealthy political temperatures ahead of the August polls.
He said journalists need to play their part in ensuring political discourse related to the polls does not undermine peaceful existence and tolerance among Kenyans.
“The media should be careful about their choice of words in reporting election issues. The power of words cannot be overemphasized. Once words have been spoken, they may create serious damage even if they are taken back later,” he said.
He added: “We don’t want Kenyans to lose their precious lives and property again as a result of elections as it tragically happened in 2007/8.”
The former General Secretary of the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) also urged religious leaders to avoid partisan politics saying doing so undermines their credibility and divides Kenyans.
“The audience of religious leaders have different political persuasions. Partisan politics should therefore be avoided by religious leaders who are expected to be figures of unity and reconciliation. Let’s preserve our moral authority by remaining neutral,” he said.