Dennis Itumbi reports from Kenya for Journalism.co.uk on developments in the country’s media:
Three independent Kenyan radio stations have been named and shamed for fueling the post-election violence in the country last year in a human rights report.
The preliminary report ‘A Human Rights Account of Kenya’s Post-2007 Election Violence’, compiled by the government-funded but independent Kenya National Human Rights Commission, claims individual journalists and the radio stations incited and urged listeners to arm themselves and attack members of rival communities.
KASS FM, which broadcasts in the Kalenjin area, was accused by the report of ‘being highly biased and using inflammatory language in its broadcasts and programming.’
The report quotes one of its top journalists telling his audience in Swahili (a widely spoken dialect in East Africa)’ tokeni vita imetokea’, which loosely translates to ‘leave your houses, war has begun’. According to further notes in the report, the journalist went on to urge youths to ‘arm themselves’.
A preacher at the station – identified only as Rev Kosgey – is also named in the report for organizing a meeting to evict members of President Mwai Kibaki’s Kikuyu tribe from the Rift Valley region long before the elections.
Other stations mentioned include Inooro, owned by Royal Media Services – a high-flying independent media company, which owns the bulk of vernacular stations in the country, and religious broadcaster Radio Injili, based in Eldoret. Inooro was particularly blamed for organising revenge attacks in Kenya’s central province.
The report argued that the ‘media failed in the announcement of results, since they aired reports without a background context and historical voting patterns’.
The report comes at a time when the Kenyan media is sharply in focus over its role in the 2007 elections.
The pressure is so high that a commission has been set up to investigate the media’s coverage of the disputed presidential election results.