The general elections are coming soon and the biggest question right now is have you registered as a voter? But this cannot knock the most important question of all out of the race. The one question that will forever be ringing in everyone’s mind even long after the elections. The question that is to determine the course of our country’s development in the next five years. And that is, who will you elect as your president, as your governor or senator, as your Member of Parliament? Do you even know all the persons vying for these seats? For instance in regards to the presidential bid do you even other candidates apart from BABA and HUSTLER? What about
who is running for the gubernatorial seat in your county? Is it a man or a woman? Have you even read their manifestos or heard about the plans they might have for your county and its people? What about those who may be potential MCAs in the various wards?
Did you even know that as of today there are seven different potential presidential candidates? I did not think so… but it is not your fault. How could you possibly know the same when you spend your whole day hustling to make money and when you actually sit down to watch or listen to the news, you are bombarded with several headlines of what the two ‘horses’ in the election race have been up to on the campaign trail. And by the way, who made these two the ‘horses’ in the race while all the others ‘donkeys’ as the media likes to portray? Which criteria did the media use to reach this conclusion? Were we as a country consulted on the same?
This brings out a very serious concern that most people seem to have overlooked or totally ignored. That is the right to information. It is provided for under article 35 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010. It is a right that encompasses various spheres of our lives as citizens of this great country. In this article I will focus mainly on the media, their partiality when it comes to reporting political news and how it affects our democracy.
First of all, it is the mandate of the media to provide information to the public. It is expected that they provide citizens with all available information so that the citizens in turn make the right decisions. Secondly, such information should ideally be provided in an impartial, truthful and fair manner. This is to ensure that they do not wrongly influence the citizens. Especially in crucial and sensitive matters such as the elections. In several instances, the media has acted as our mouthpiece when even us as a people had been gagged by our own government. It spoke against ills that plagued the country without fear or favour of anyone like in the case of the ‘Covid-19 Billionares’. They are like our personal David ready to defend our honor by taking on Goliath even when the odds are against them. But just as they are so ready to report on corruption scandals, they should apply the same zeal when it comes to reporting on election matters. Giving information about every candidate not just the chosen few so as to actually let the citizens choose who they really want to be their president. By the media playing favorites, they are interfering with our will to choose our leaders. This is because most people take the news to be the gospel truth. ‘If the news says it then it must be true’ mentality really affects how we as a society reason and in turn who we will choose. When the news decides to choose for us the two main contestants, then are we really electing our leaders based on our own free will? By providing little to no information on the other candidates, are we as a people really making informed decisions at the ballot box?
I personally think not. Without all of the information we need, how are we to know who is truly the best for us. As I type this, there is an outcry by the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC), the body mandated to carry out voter registration and elections amongst other roles, that there has been a low turnout in voter registration, especially among the youth. Have you asked yourself why? Maybe it is because the Kenyan youth have already seen enough, experienced enough and are fed up. Maybe they believe that from the choices presented to them in the media, there is none who can actually address their problems. But what if they knew that there are actually other choices to pick from? That they are not only limited to the ‘horses’ whom the media is shoving down their throats. What if they heard agendas and manifestos from the likes of Alfred Mutua, Ekuro Aukot, Kivutha Kibwana, Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi or even Dorothy Kemunto? What if from the media-branded donkeys, the youth found someone they can relate to, someone who may actually have answers to their problems? Someone who will restore their faith in the government and the legal system?
Maybe then, they will have a reason to turn up and register as voters. But this can only be achieved if the media stops playing favorites, stops branding certain candidates as the horses and possible winners. And anyway, who says a donkey cannot be a horse one day? We won’t actually know unless we give it the chance to be one. So let the media lay down all the facts and let us, the people of Kenya, make our choice as to who we want, whether donkey or horse.
JKUAT Legal Clinic