BWIRE: Media should be included in BBI reforms
By Victor Bwire
Media missed out in the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) report, just like some few segments of the society.
However, we believe by the time the additional information is added ahead of the referendum of constitutional reviews, issues affecting the industry will find themselves into the document.
The media sector presented its position to the team. Looking at how the country reacts and treats the media whenever there are issues that shake the country a bit, it is important that the media is entrenched into any national narrative in the country.
All the reports that have attempted to look at historical injustices, human rights violations and electoral related violence have a chapter on the media; curious the BBI report missed a mention, may be in the annexes.
The country must define which media structure and policy it wants, and as a national resource, how its managed, not just as a business, but a key player in the shaping the kind the accountability and transparency processes we want to pursue.
A number of issues the authorities have raised about the media such as media and national security, national development, contribution to the knowledge society, crime, harmful content among others can be addressed through a policy on “must carry obligation”, media cross ownership to name but a few, should be addressed in such national documents.
Having said that, we expect the media, even without being accorded space in the report to cover the matter professionally and allow Kenyans interact with the document in a manner that benefits them, and not focus on sideshows and non-issues.
Focus should be on informative and factual discussion that will inform, educate and sensitise the public to make decisions.
After the fanfare during the launch of the report at Bomas, the media has the professional responsibility and civic duty to help by delving deeper into the report, and picking out the substantive issues that will help Kenya address some of the sticky issues that have faced the country over the years.
Unlike in the past, where numerous such reports have been ignored or used for short -term gains, hopefully, the current political will and gusto will allow the BBI process and report to provide meaningful lessons for Kenyans, that adds value.
It should not be reduced to which politician will gain from the process only, but which of the suggestions and recommendations, can be improved for the benefit of Kenyans, however difficulty it is.
We expect editorial discretion and journalistic professional judgments on the discussions and contents of the report devoid of personal and high octane polarised positions by the media, aware that they are those intent on using the report 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”.
The 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 wit tempting national issues.
The media must be very cautious and firm in handling the national debate on the matters raised and this time create functional fact checking desks to hold accountable some of the pundits and politicians that will be participating in the debates.
As usual, there are lose canons that must be held accountable and made to provide facts for the baseless claims will be propagating across media platforms without shame.
Let the media hold leaders accountable and push them hard to provide facts about claims they make, about even obvious known historical facts.
The media must not be drawn into the circus: it must remain fearless, professional and ensure facts are sacred in the debate.
Initially, members of the BBI technical Committee must be allowed to participate in the panels and expound on the details of some of the proposals, as we gradually allow in the normal faces to weigh in with their politics.
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 confronted.
Victor Bwire works at the Media Council of Kenya (firstname.lastname@example.org)