This photo is among those taken by former photojournalist turned politician, Boniface Mwangi, the current Ukweli Party parliamentary candidate for Starehe Constituency during 2007-2008 post-election violence. The photos won him the Mohamed Amin Photographic Award, in CNN MultiChoice African Journalist 2008 Awards and several other accolades. Photo/Boniface Mwangi.
Dear journalists and bloggers,
Today, I want to address you because of the crucial role you have played in the ongoing political campaigns and you will continue to play on Election Day and thereafter.
While it is assumed that journalists need to be neutral while discharging their duties, I know on August 8, 2017 all of you are going to vote for either Jubilee or Nasa candidates. That is your democratic right like all other Kenyans.
However, I take this opportunity to remind you about the special and crucial responsibility bestowed to you as purveyors of information. I know journalists are trained to disseminate information without fear or favour but within the confines of the law.
However, due to technological advancements and new media innovations, journalists have been joined by bloggers – majority of whom are not trained journalists as purveyors of information.
A police officer on patrol during the post-election violence following the disputed 2007 General Election. PHOTO/BONIFACE MWANGI.
While journalists biases have been restrained because they operate from a regulated environment; bloggers have thrown caution to the wind and operated as if advancing fake news, incitement, disparaging people’s reputations and other ills is the norm.
If bloggers in this country were to be armed with guns and grenades and not notebooks, pens, tablets, phones and computers, they would have killed more people than thugs and rogue policemen combined.
But as campaigns come to a close and we look forward to Election Day, the political stakes continue to take a diametrically emotive dimension.
I know there is the contentious issue of tallying centres and the declaring of the presidential winner. Both media houses and political parties have established their own tallying centres and they will know the presidential winner even before the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) declares the presidential results.
We all remember the recent case of Kiambu Governor William Kabogo conceding defeat during the Jubilee Party nominations less than five hours after the counting of votes and even before Jubilee declared the winner.
I also remember when President Uhuru Kenyatta hosted journalists at State House after being declared the winner of the 2013 General Election, journalists tried to outdo each on who among them were the first to break the news of his win.
This is the scenario you are going to be confronted with. However, the law is clear on who is supposed to declare the presidential winner.
However, this is an issue of great public interest and that is why I want both bloggers and journalists to work within the confines of the core principles of ethical journalism set out below that provide an excellent base for everyone in the public information sphere to show responsibility in how they use information.
Five core principles of journalism
Truth and Accuracy
Journalists cannot always guarantee ‘truth’, but getting the facts right is the cardinal principle of journalism. We should always strive for accuracy, give all the relevant facts we have and ensure that they have been checked. When we cannot corroborate information we should say so.
Journalists must be independent voices; we should not act, formally or informally, on behalf of special interests whether political, corporate or cultural. We should declare to our editors – or the audience – any of our political affiliations, financial arrangements or other personal information that might constitute a conflict of interest.
Fairness and Impartiality
Most stories have at least two sides. While there is no obligation to present every side in every piece, stories should be balanced and add context. Objectivity is not always possible, and may not always be desirable (in the face for example of brutality or inhumanity), but impartial reporting builds trust and confidence.
Journalists should do no harm. What we publish or broadcast may be hurtful, but we should be aware of the impact of our words and images on the lives of others.
A sure sign of professionalism and responsible journalism is the ability to hold ourselves accountable. When we commit errors we must correct them and our expressions of regret must be sincere not cynical.
The writer is the Editor-in-chief at Next Generation Media Ltd.
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