Presidential debate still on course: Team

A set of the 2017 Presidential debate at Catholic University. [Boniface Okendo,Standard]

Organisers of the presidential debates have come out in defence of the planned event just a day after Deputy President William Ruto threatened not to participate.

Ruto on Thursday warned he will skip the debate “over media bias” saying that he had noted with concern continued bias and propaganda in a section of the media. But in a rejoinder, Head of Presidential Debates Secretariat Clifford Machoka said that the debates would be conducted in a fair and balanced manner void of any bias.

“Planning for the 2022 debates has been underway since 2021 and is currently at very advanced stages.  Specifically, we have involved various stakeholders, including presidential aspirants – including the WSR Presidential Campaign – to map their expectations. In these consultations, we will continue to ensure the debates are as inclusive and representative as possible,” stated Machoka in a statement sent to newsrooms.

To guarantee objectivity, he said, a panel of senior editors from across the media industry has been established to provide stewardship of the content aspects given how critical the debates are to ensure the public interest obligations are served and that the debates embody the principles of fairness, integrity, independence and accountability as enshrined in the Presidential Debates Guidelines.

“We have taken note of the statement issued on June 2, 2022, by the WSR Presidential Campaign team advising their candidate against participating in the Presidential debates…for us to take our country forward, it behoves us to work together rather than threaten processes that are important to the country,” added Machoka.

He further defended the need for the Presidential debate noting that the debates play a significant role in the way we choose our leaders.

“For a country that has so many diverse political voices, debates have become the place for clarity of priorities, public policies, ideas and other development aspects key to the Kenyan people. During these debates, the public gets to listen to the candidates and gauge what their priorities could be once they assume office,” further read the statement.

Ruto had on Thursday criticized the planned Presidential debate to be held in July.

“We note the unequal coverage allocation, compounded by biased framing and negative profiling of the Kenya Kwanza campaign and its personalities,” said Ruto.

Ruto said that while the media’s actions remain inconsequential to enlightened people, there must be fair play “as a matter of a right as well as professional decency”.