A report from Africa’s Independent Review Commission (IREC), which was set up to investigate last year’s disputed presidential elections in Kenya, has cleared the country’s media of professional malpractice in its coverage of the election results, and blamed the Electoral Commission of Kenya (ECK) and politicians of delaying results at grassroots level.
The commission, which has trashed claims of rigging and alteration of presidential results at the National Tally Centre – the main complaint of the opposition, also dismissed concerns over the media’s role in the post-election violence raised by international observers, including the European Union, as overly reliant on hearsay.
IREC – headed by retired South African Judge Johann Kriegler – recommended that the media should be fed results electronically to increase speed and that a secure line of transmitting results from village polling stations to the headquarters be developed with an access password for all media houses.
“The media was under pressure to relay results, politicians and the electoral commission of Kenya delayed the numbers, the media had no choice but to report what they had, you cannot blame the beast if you have not fed it,” reads the report.
However, the report did find fault with vernacular media stations for fuelling tension after the announcement of the election results and called for a review of employment policies in media houses. “Only professionals should be employed,” it said.
“How can you blame the media when politicians forced their way into the press centre and took over the role of the ECK at a time when there was[sic] information gaps?” asked the 117-page report.
Within the next 15 days another report on the media’s handling of the elections is expected to be presented to President Mwai Kibaki and former United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan, who was chief mediator in the post-election crisis.
The report is expected to name, shame and recommend crucial steps that politicians, the media and the ECK should take to avoid a repeat of such violence in future.