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Media accused of igniting violence

NAIROBI, August 21 – Information and Communications Permanent Secretary Bitange Ndemo on Thursday testified at the Commission of Inquiry into Post Election Violence (CIPEV) where he once again blamed a section of the media for fuelling the post election skirmishes.

Ndemo said some electronic media houses violated ethics to broadcast sensational programmes that bordered on incitement.

He cited vernacular radio stations, some of which, he said, have received warning letters in recent weeks.

Without naming some of the radio stations accused of having fuelled animosity before, during and after the disputed presidential elections, Ndemo testified that many of them had violated various sections of media laws in Kenya.

“We are mandated to regulate electronic media and we did obtain transcripts of broadcast material that we felt bordered on incitement,” Ndemo said.

He told the commission that his ministry forwarded some of the material to the Attorney General’s (AG) office for further direction.

He pledged to provide correspondence between him and the AG to the commission at a private session later on Thursday or early Friday.

During cross-examination by lawyer Harun Ndubi, the PS said that the AG had recommended further action be taken by the Media Council, which is mandated with regulating content in the media.

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He said no media house has ever been prosecuted for playing part in fuelling the post election chaos.

“We only warned them though letters which I am ready to table before this commission.”

Ndemo attributed lack of professionalism in the Kenyan media, particularly electronic, to employment of non-professionals ‘who have no idea what ethics is all about.’

For instance, he said, many radio stations employ people with no journalistic knowledge.

“Many of them are just employed because of their good voices while others are just comedians. And these are people we expect to uphold journalistic ethics; yet they don’t have an idea of what journalism is all about,” he said.

“There is need to understand there is a purpose for people to go to a journalism class to learn the basics of journalism. This is the war we have with FM radio stations.”

Ndemo said the government was in talks with the Media Council of Kenya to ensure better standards are upheld and regulated accordingly.

He said the ministry was awaiting a Media Bill that is pending in Parliament to help provide a legislative framework for the media.

“Once this framework is in place, we will establish a content advisory body within the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK),” he said.

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Ndemo also told the commission that his ministry had successfully negotiated for the state-funding of the Media Council to ensure it becomes an independent organ.

The Council is currently funded by media stakeholders, thus leaving it at the mercy of the interested parties.

“The law as currently constituted bars the council from receiving funds from the government or any foreign agency,” he said.

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