KENYA TELEVISION NETWORK (KTN- TV) channel, one of the leading traditional media houses in Kenya, has been accused of under-representing the policy of opposition in Kenya while propagating government lies because it is obsessed with promoting the interests of its owners who are openly in support of Jubilee government ahead of the 2017 general election in August.
The broadcaster, which is privately owned, has come under fire from social media users who suggested a series of distorted news reports it has run discriminate against against Raila Odinga’s opposition National Super Alliance and are designed to deliberately condition the mind of voters and ultimately shape their opinions on key campaign issues and the respective candidates.
On Monday 19th June, furious Kenyans on Twitter (populary known as #KOT) run the hashtag #PartisanPressKE which trended on Twitter and exposed a shocking bias in media coverage of the presidential election in terms of air play given to the main candidates. The hashtag attracted thousands of contributors and widespread support with impressions reaching millions of twitter analytics.
What is obvious to the discerning eye however is the opinion count question on prime time TV each evening. These questions are framed in a way that leads viewers to vote against whichever agenda the opposition is advancing. Last night, with prior intention to connote negativity, KTN TV news anchors Ben Kitli and Sophie Wanuna could not hide surprise when their twitter poll question; “Do you think Raila’s frequent allegations against the various (govt) agencies are all based on genuine concernes?” polled a whopping 65% agreeing while only 35% disagreeing.
KTN is also accused of undermining Kenya’s hard earned democracy which is directly dependent on a well informed population. Biased media invariably strengthens dictatorship and bad governance.
It will be remembered that KTN owned by retired President Moi, Senator Gideon Moi and former KANU broker Joshua Kulei have all expressed their support for president Uhuru who faces Raila Odinga in an uncertain election in August.
In 2013, former Judiciary Chief Registrar Gladys Shollei, beloved wife to KTV Chief Executive Officer Sam Shollei, was accused by civil society and presidential election petitioners of deliberately failing to scrutinize Forms 34 and Forms 36 as ordered by Supreme Court Judges as part of rigging evidence adduced by leading challenger Raila Odinga legal team. Shollei used he position to subvert justice and democracy.
The use of media propaganda against a competitive opposition carries inherent risks because it leads to increased public mistrusts of traditional media that gives rise to increased opportunities for misinformation and other negative elements like hate speech which for a country like Kenya may very well fuel conflict and violence in the election period.
The outcome of a biased media is manipulation which encourages ignorance and emotion over understanding and considered action.
In Kenya, persistent media bias has consistently contributed to skewed elections and sometimes then violence and controversy that followed.
In 2007, Nation Media Group with the then MD Linas Gitahi decided to crash their servers and halt their tallying centre when the state made a decision to rig the elections with Raila Odinga with unassailable lead. In the same election Royal Media Group also refused to release results that showed Raila Odinga’s victory. Something the station owner SK Macharia admitted to in 2016.