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Refrain from reposting news and content against our ethos


KTN News revamped studio at the Standard Group Headquarters along Mombasa Road in Nairobi on November 29, 2021. [Stafford Ondego, Standard]

The desire for social media following should not compromise ethics and morality

A thin line straddles the divide between ethical reporting and the need to inform. Mainstream media is acutely aware of that line and does its best to inform within the confines of ethics and morality. Not so much social media which, many times, crosses the line without regard to those it hurts in its quest to break news.

Mainstream media operates in a highly regulated environment. It has bodies that regulate its conduct and prescribed penalties for violation of the same. Stories and reports are packaged in a socially acceptable manner with regard given to the sensibilities of communities.

No sanction

Social media is loosely regulated. It does not adhere to fact-checking processes and can pass falsehoods with little or no sanction. It is not precluded from publishing gory pictures of accident victims. Nor is it stopped from breaking stories with names of dead or injured victims even before their next of kin are notified. No training is required and anyone can post a story as it unfolds.

Nowhere is this clearer than in the recent tragic passing on of Kenya’s Chief of Defence Forces Francis Ogolla. General Ogolla was involved in a fatal helicopter crash that claimed other victims. Barely an hour after the crash, social media was awash with stories complete with pictures of the burning plane. Less than two hours into the incident, the names of the victims were circulated even before their next of kin had been notified.

General Ogolla’s son has decried the insidious effects of social media. At his father’s funeral, he spoke of false narratives on some social media handles that sought to create suspicion over the relationship of his father with the government. He clarified that General Ogolla had a great working relationship with President William Ruto.

No doubt, social media has stolen a march on mainstream reporting. It has given agency to the country’s youthful demographic cohort empowering them to control a story with nothing more than a smartphone and access to the internet.

A line must be drawn between the right to access information as the law provides and the sensitivity of a news item in question.

Following General Ogolla’s accident, social media should not have identified him and his companions given the nature of his docket as Head of the Kenya Defence Force.  Such information should have been treated as a national security issue and come from official sources.

Click-bait headlines

Unfortunately, this is now a global reality; that traits once deemed repugnant to the mores and conventions of older people are now actively sought or desired by a more youthful population. Which is why unseemly pictures of ghastly accidents, nudity and other vices are posted as breaking news just for views or likes.

Facts are no longer sacrosanct and click-bait headlines on social media pages are used to attract rather than inform.

Whilst it may be beyond the remit of media regulators to control the flow of information on social media, we owe it to ourselves to refrain from reposting information that is repugnant to our ethos, more so, when it is founded on conspiracy theories. 

The writer is a public policy analyst

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