Journalists exposing electoral malpractices to be protected-ODPP


How Walter Menya was lured by ‘news source’ into police bribe trap. VIDEO/NATION MEDIA GROUP
By ABDULHAKIM SHERMAN
newsdesk@reporter.co.ke
Journalists documenting incidents of electoral malpractices during the ongoing campaigns ahead of the August 8, 2017 General Election should feel free to share such information with the Directorate of Public Prosecutions.
According to Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions, Mr Moses Omirera, journalists exposing electoral malpractices and face potential threats will be protected under the Witness Protection Programme.
“Journalists will play a key role in ensuring transparency and accountability in the coming General Election by reporting objectively and exposing electoral malpractices without fear or favour,” he said.
Mr Omirera was speaking during a media workshop on election preparedness organized by the ODPP at the Machakos University Hotel Conference Centre before the recent arrest of Nation Media Group journalist Walter Menya.
The Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions said electronic evidence will play a key role in prosecuting election offences during the coming General Election and journalists should not shy away from playing their watchdog role.
Electronic evidence that can be used in prosecuting election offences can be obtained using equipment like cameras, mobile phones, voice recorders, notebooks, scanners and photocopiers.

Assistant Director of Public Prosecutions Moses Omirera. PHOTO/COURTESY
Mr Omirera said information acquired by journalists or other people using electronic gadgets can only be useful in prosecuting election offences if the evidence is processed professionally.
“Gadgets used in recording election offences needs to be taken to the CID’s Cyber Crime Unit or any other independent qualified body for the evidence to be processed and a certificate authenticating the evidence issued,” he said.
The latest developments come at a time when Kenyan journalists are increasingly under threat from politicians and State functionaries.
Mr Menya was recently taken to court for allegedly demanding a bribe after he wrote a story that revealed Energy Principal Secretary Joseph Njoroge, Kenya Revenue Authority Commissioner General John Njiraini and the chairman of Kenya Leather Development Council Board Titus Ibui who are public officers were directors of Friends of Jubilee Foundation.
Friends of Jubilee Foundation organized an exclusive dinner that raised at least Sh1 billion for Jubilee’s presidential candidate President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Mr Menya was later set free after the Director of Public Prosecution ordered for his release unconditionally.
The Public Officers Ethics Act outlaws public officers from engaging in political campaigns or activities of a political party or candidate in an election.
Mr Omirera said the ODPP trained a team of 105 officers to handle electoral offences, hate speech and incitement to violence cases as political campaigns enter the homestretch.

Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko. PHOTO/COURTESY
The team will be served by a 24 hour secretariat to coordinate and facilitate the prosecution team.
He said the ODPP had established a framework for inter-agency collaboration between his office, Directorate of Criminal Investigations, IEBC and National Cohesion and Integration Commission for effective detection, investigation and timely prosecution of election offences.
He said so far, an aspiring governor, an MP as well as two sitting MCAs are among 62 people who have been charged in 32 elections related offences in the just concluded party primaries.
The individuals face charges that include unauthorised possession of election material, damage of election material, bribery of voters, unauthorised entry into election centres and, malicious damage to property.
During the meeting the Editor-in-Chief of Daily Reporter gave journalists 10 tips on how to effectively cover elections. They include:

Journalists receive tips on how to cover elections from veteran journalist, Patrick Mayoyo. PHOTO/ NORAH

Treat opinion polls with caution. Public opinion polls are a staple of campaign coverage, but reporters must ask many questions when reporting on surveys, including: who commissioned and paid for the survey, what polling group did it, when and how was it conducted, how many and who were surveyed, what was asked and what is the polling margin of error? Reporters should also question news value and ask whether all responses are included and if the new results are different from other polls.
Think voters. Covering an election is much more than reporting on candidates and their issues. Voters’s issues matter most. Find out voters’ top concerns, then send their questions to the political parties to address. The reverse shouldn’t happen with only candidates’ issues being presented. Voters are the crucial players in elections: they vote.
Know the election laws. They are the road map for how parties can form, who can run for office, what boundaries make up electoral areas and how election violations will be handled.
Read the Constitution, Political Parties Act, IEBC Act, Election Offences Act, Election Act, Publication of Electoral Opinion Polls Act, Assumption of Office of President Act 2012, Public Officers Ethics Act, Election Financing Act and party and candidates manifestoes.
Have a trusted network. Networking among the political class is important in covering elections. But you need to have a trusted network. A)political leaders  b). MPs  c). Governors  d). Senators and e) Political Parties leaders
Start early. Don’t wait until the campaign period to plan election coverage. Much research and reporting can be done in advance of the frenzied campaign period. Analyze and compare parties’ platforms, start candidates’ profiles, begin voters’ surveys of key issues and plan for questionnaires on those issues to go to candidates. Map out story schedules for running election features, plan for election specials or sections, and decide who will cover what and whom.
Follow the money. Track how the election is being funded, where candidates and parties are getting their support and whether election laws on party and candidate financing are being followed. Election Financing Act.

Sunday Nation writer Walter Menya (right) chatting with other journalists when he appeared at Milimani Law Courts on June 19, 2017. PHOTO | EVANS HABIL
Study voter registration procedures. Follow the voter registration process and know how voters are listed.  Establish if there is double voter registration and how it is being done. Compare IEBC procedures to international standards. Investigate whether restrictions have been placed because of a citizen’s gender, race, family or religion, and whether a fee is required to register.
Fact check everything. In campaigns, candidates and parties spew all kinds of statistics. Take nothing at face value; check every statement, such as how a candidate’s promises today correspond with what he or she said in the past. Develop a contact list of trusted experts and institutions early in the game  — domestic and international — with whom to check candidate and party assertions.
Be especially alert on election day: Talk to voters waiting to vote or coming from polling stations. Ask if they were pressured to vote a certain way. Question whether there are enough ballots, ballot boxes and officials to observe the voting and ballot counting. Look for sealed voting boxes, unscreened voting booths, and people being turned away. Know how ballots are being secured, tallied and transported and if this is being monitored by nonpartisan election monitors.
Know you are crucial. The media has an irreplaceable role in the election process. Voters must have enough information about candidates, political parties and the election process to make informed and responsible choices in the ballot booth. They get much of that from you: journalists. Always be balanced, unbiased and truthful.

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