Don’t fall prey to media cons in town

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It’s time again for elections in Kenya and there is going to be a lot of pressure including accusations against media of all manner of ills.

A lot of people now want media attention and coverage; the big political players have invested in media campaigns and will want to sway public opinion – they will cry out and blame media whenever critical stories on them emerge.

Small political players including briefcase political parties and politicians will be all over, pushing for media attention in equal measure.

In the same breath, a number of media relations brokers/middlemen and quacks are in the market in search of the politicians’ millions in the name of fixing their media problems.

Many with past media working connections have bought media equipment including cameras, recorders and notebooks and have media badges, to convince non-suspecting Kenyans of how they will secure media coverage; especially positive stories covered or negative ones muffled, but their only interest is the money.

A number of people have raised concerns about the quality and professionalism exhibited by the media in terms of content and behaviour. There are too many masqueraders in the industry and its becoming very difficult for legitimate journalists to work.

While for a long time the issues were corruption in the media industry and restrictions in terms of the legal regime relating to media practice in Kenya, now the biggest ugly face of journalism in the country is lack of professionalism and unregulated content on air.

Kenyans beware that not all people carrying cameras, recorders and notebooks are journalists or work for legitimate and credible media outlets; many are mere cons and brokers looking for your money.

Press conferences will be packed to capacity, fake interviews will be done and a number of sources will be asked to facilitate or “release” the “journalists” after those interviews or press conferences; but no stories will be forthcoming.

Angry sources after failing to see the articles will accuse media of all manner of things creating a very hostile working environment for journalists and other media workers who are legitimate.

Legitimate journalists and media practitioners must have a press card issued by the Media Council of Kenya in addition to an employee card from the media enterprise that they work for including freelancers. Misrepresentation as most of the quacks in the industry do is a criminal offence and attracts punishment.

Public places including hotels and offices, ensure you establish the authenticity of those claiming to be working for media. Don’t fall prey to cons in town.

The grasp of the professional ethics for the practice of journalism in Kenya by many media workers, especially over radio stations who host talk shows and caller in programmes is seriously wanting. Trainings and sensitization is must and people must up their performance.

Let’s stop using prime time airtime on cheap and vulgar talk while coached callers fill most of the time but prioritize issues of national concern or development during the discussions. We need to ensure diversity of voices and the choice of guests during our shows.

Broadcasters are required to strictly adhere to the code of ethics and the programme code and station managers will be held liable for any breach. The licensing authorities will be checking the performance of the stations when renewing their broadcast permits, while editors must ensure that advertisements conform to the requirements of the code of ethics and programme code.

Media support groups including the Media Owners Association, Kenya Union of Journalists, Kenya Editors Guild, Kenya Correspondents Association, Association of Media Women in Kenya, Association of Digital Media owners ensure your members are verified and educate Kenyans on dealing with legitimate journalists and media practitioners.

Cons in the industry and those out to tarnish the name of the media profession and industry must be dealt with. Gatekeepers please make the best decisions when assigning, researching and producing the stories.

(The writer is the Deputy CEO & Programmes Manager at the Media Council of Kenya)

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