There is fear that with President Uhuru Kenyatta and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga receiving the Building Bridges Initiative report, media and political pundits will tend to focus on sideshows and non-issues instead of informative and factual discussion that will inform, educate and sensitize the public to make decisions.
While the mood is of the usual winner take it attitude already led by the political group, media would help a lot by delving deeper into the report and picking out the substantive issues that will help Kenyans live peacefully and enjoy the benefits of democracy instead of dwelling on the weaknesses.
Unlike in the past, where numerous such reports have been ignored or used for short -term gains, will the BBI process and report provide any meaningful lessons for Kenyans, away from the extreme political positions that will be taken by the political class and their followers?
Editorial discretion and journalistic professional judgments of the discussions and contents of the report devoid of personal and high octane polarized positions are the least we expect from the media, aware that they are those intent on using the debate of the same to introduce irresponsible narratives in the name of freedom of expression.
A robust and fair discussion of the process, content, flaws and positives will be encouraging and exciting away from the already seemingly created situation of either “accept or reject.” Media should avoid presenting the BBI report as a “do or die” event that will immediately solve the problems facing the country, but a process among others that have been tried and is expected, if treated differently, to show another side of Kenyan and her many attempts to deal with tempting national issues.
If what we recently saw in Parliament pitting MPs Didmus Barasa, Gladys Wanga and Esther Passaris is anything to go by, in addition to the extreme positions, insults and vulgar language that has dominated the political discourse is anything to go by, media must be very cautious and firm, in ensuring responsible coverage and use of their platforms for debate on BBI.
There are loose cannons that must be held accountable and made to provide facts for the baseless claims they are wont to make. Media must step up their research and fact-checking mechanisms to ensure lies are not peddled and unsubstantiated claims made. There is tension in the country, including in the three arms of government, Executive, Judiciary and Parliament over this report largely on political and ethnic lines, and media must not be drawn into the circus.
Remain fearless, professional and facts remain sacred in the debate.
That the country needs a political system that is more accommodative and sensitive to our ethnic differences and historical injustices that have plagued us over the years which have to be fixed is a reality and we could find a relevant way of dealing with it.
That we need ways of strengthening parliamentary oversight over the Executive and the counties, especially on resource utilization and revenue collection is an issue we must deal with.
The draft Constitution of Kenya March 15, 2004 (commonly known as the Bomas Draft), Agenda Four Items and other reports become critical reference materials for the media houses. Seasoned journalists and veterans even brought in on short term, to help in the institutional memory of the road of the country’s national healing process is critical. A thorough discussion on the pros and cons of the suggestions from the report is expected. Kenyans must be allowed to be educated through and by the media on the advantages of the Presidential and parliamentary systems of Government.
What is the best governance system in a country like Kenya full of weak political leaders, confused political parties with such diverse ethnic groups and grave historical injustices? The fear that any of the big tribes will conspire to exclude others from leadership and access to other national resources is real and must be confronted.