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Kenyan police officers take position during the Westgate Shopping Mall terror attack in Kenya in 2014. /FILE

Kenya

Curbing violent extremism fuelled by COVID-19 pandemic

NAIROBI, Kenya, Mar 16- In a proactive move to curb the ever-existing threat of violent extremism in Kenya, the agency mandated to coordinate and strengthen counter-terrorism activities, the National Counter Terrorism Centre (NCTC) is engaging key stakeholders to play active roles.

NCTC said it is targeting critical players who will help the agency to counter the ideology of extremists hoping to reap in from the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, that has rendered thousands jobless.

With the pandemic, NCTC has cautioned that some radical elements are targeting frustrated youth, hoping to exploit them for the crime.

NCTC Acting Director Joseph Opondo said the agency is planning ahead to ensure Kenyans are sensitized against the vice and its effects on the national security.

“The central role played by the media in shaping public discourse on matters of national importance such as terrorism also underscores the importance of this conversation. Media frames form a central part in an individual’s understanding of how issues and events are covered and portrayed, particularly in uncertain times,” he told participants at a media training on reporting of prevention and countering extremism in Kenya, “News frames are vital in the manner in which issues and events are presented in the media because they communicate a particular perceived reality.”

The 3-day training that kicked off on Monday in Machakos County brings together crime journalists under the Crime Journalists Association of Kenya (CJAK) and officials from the Media Council of Kenya.

Opondo called on journalists to report responsibly, to ensure they do not glorify the acts of terrorists.

He said “analyzing media frames employed in terrorist attacks such as the Westgate Mall or Garissa University College may serve as a strategy with which to identify main causes and responsible agents, make moral judgments, and, finally, suggest policy responses in the same line the same influenced Counter Terrorism Strategies following the 9/11 attack in the USA.”  

Media Council of Kenya Head of Media Development and Strategy Victor Bwire said there was need for extensive media training on reporting of violent extremism, saying it is a complex issue.

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“As a journalist, covering fields such as terrorism, violent extremism, radicalisation is a very complex matter. It is a process-oriented reporting,” he said.

NCTC said it has already mapped out hotspots across the country and is working with various stakeholders to curb violent extremism, particularly in urban areas and border towns.

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