Experts View: Should Kenyan Media Endorse Presidential Candidates?

  • Royal Media Founder SK Macharia hugging Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga in Muranga County on July 27.
    Royal Media Founder SK Macharia hugging Former Prime Minister Raila Odinga in Muranga County on July 27.
    ODM/twitter
  • Should media houses endorse a presidential candidate during electioneering period? Well, in advanced democracies, media outlets not only cover the election campaigns, but they also campaign for the candidates

    In the last elections in the United States, some media houses endorsed Joe Biden, while others endorsed Donald Trump. American Media houses are among other international media entities that have for long been declaring support for their preferred presidential candidates. 

    In Kenya, there are rising concerns from politicians that some media houses are pushing politicians' agenda more than others. This has sparked a debate with people asking if it is right and acceptable for the media outlets to declare their stance during an election. 

    Deputy President William Ruto while addressing a crowd on October 17, in Mombasa County
    Deputy President William Ruto while addressing a crowd on October 17, in Mombasa County
    DPPS

    Kabando wa Kabando through a post on Twitter noted that by media houses endorsing a candidate, it would broaden Kenya's democracy and end tribal politics. 

    “Kenya media companies should start endorsing presidential candidates. It is one way to broaden our democracy and to end tribal politics. It will advance political ideologies. 2013 I raised this question in a TV debate, but we did not address it in context. Let us focus it objectively,” Kabando’s tweet read. 

    Kabando hailed Royal Media Services as a media house that has helped grow Kenya's democracy and for promoting socio-economic awareness. 

    Kabando also noted that by a media house endorsing a candidate, it does not mean that the staff are also in agreement. 

    “Of course, editorial boards are not newsrooms, so endorsements won't mean staff therein agree. But it is my thesis that officially open endorsements cab stem uncalled for entitlements by candidates, or periodic mishandling of situations because of confusion. Partisanship is legal,” Kabando’s tweet further read. 

    Wiper Party Leader Kalonzo Musyoka (left), ANC Party Leader Musalia Mudavadi (middle), and FORD-Kenya Party Leader Moses Wetangula (right) during One Kenya Alliance meeting held at Hermosa Gardens in Karen on Tuesday, July 20, 2021.
    Wiper Party Leader Kalonzo Musyoka (left), ANC Party Leader Musalia Mudavadi (middle), and FORD-Kenya Party Leader Moses Wetangula (right) during One Kenya Alliance meeting held at Hermosa Gardens in Karen on Tuesday, July 20, 2021.
    Kenyans.co.ke

    Speaking to kenyans.co.ke political analyst Mark Bichachi argued that Kenya has rules, the Editors Guild, and Media Owners Association among other bodies set up to advance democracy and protect media freedom. 

    Bichachi explained that in the USA there are left and right leaning stations with examples of CNN and Fox being on the left and right respectively. 

    “It does not matter which candidate there is Fox will support the candidate on the right and CNN will do the same for the candidate on the left. Kenya is an individual based political system,” Bichachi remarked. 

    As for the media houses in Kenya, Bichachi added, they are owned by individuals so no one can be certain on what side they support. 

    “You cannot tell someone who owns their own private space not to cover something the way they want. The only station we can talk about on what it should and should not do is KBC because it is publicly owned," Bichachi stated. 

    Bichachi also stated that endorsement of candidates by media houses would be both good or bad as it depends on the candidate and the kind of politics. 

    “If the candidate is an honest candidate, then let the media houses support him but if a candidate is a bad candidate like Hitler, then of course not,” Bichachi added. 

    Barrack Muluka, a communication specialist, while speaking to kenyans.co.ke noted that in Kenya, the act of media houses supporting candidates has always been there. 

    “The best thing is for the media houses to go public and declare they are supporting so and so, in that case when we as the viewers and readers view what you are doing, we will do so and appreciate your news with the background knowledge that you are also pro so and so, instead of pretending to be objective and you are not,” Muluka stated. 

    Muluka noted that in the media houses have been exerting high levels of hypocrisy as they continue to refuse to come out and state to the public who they support. 

    “There are consequences of supporting a candidate in that people will stop watching that television station, people may stop reading your newspapers. Such are prices the media houses should be ready to bare,” Muluka noted. 

    Muluka added that in the United States and the United Kingdom, there are many political parties that we do not hear about because of the media alignment. 

    “When you hear about the Republican Party and Democratic Party in the United States Labour Party and the Conservative Party in the United Kingdom there are dozens of other parties that you do not hear about, that is the nature of this things and that is how it works,” Barrack explained. 

    Speaker Justin Muturi, Gov Kivutha Kibwana & Former UNCTAD chief Mukhisa Kituyi on Tuesday, August 17, 2021
    Speaker Justin Muturi, Gov Kivutha Kibwana & Former UNCTAD chief Mukhisa Kituyi on Tuesday, August 17, 2021
    Daily Nation