Kenya is going to the polls on August 8. To avert what happened a decade ago whereby media played a critical role in postelection violence, DW Akademie is training Kenyan journalists on Conflict Sensitive Journalism.
Nyar Lieta is working for Radio Nam Lolwe in Kisumu, a town on the shores of Lake Victoria. She says she is now aware that she should not report superficially. Michelle Njeri agrees with Nyar and adds that she has learnt how to analyze conflicts and that the training with DW Akademie will help her in her journalistic work. Nyar und Michelle are just two among many working for local radio stations as journalists and reporters in Kenya who wish to be trained more to be able to improve their knowledge about journalism ethics. The two journalists have successfully completed a three month long DW Akademie’s Blended-Learning program. The training used both online and in-person learning methods.
Conflict Sensitive Journalism
Journalists from ten local radio stations who took part in the program have been trained on conflict sensitive reporting. Journalistic principles such as ethics, facts checking, objectivity and fairness were at the forefront during the training. The participants were taught how to analyze conflict and to take conflict as an opportunity: Instead of only concentrating on reporting obvious conflict, the radio journalists were trained to seek the root causes and through appropriate interview partners to identify conflict solutions. This is particularly important in the run-up to the August 2017 elections.
As the country is preparing to go to the polls to elect a new president and almost 1,900 public officials, many are hoping that this election will be peaceful. However the images and events of the 2007 postelection’s violence have not been forgotten. The disputed re-election of then President Mwai Kibaki, triggered eruptions of violence across the country and changed into a raw ethnic conflict. More than 1,000 people lost their lives and another 500,000 were displaced. Media and especially local radio stations in rural areas played a crucial role in fueling tribal conflict and violent confrontations.
The role of media in promoting peace and fostering peaceful co-existence
Awareness of local journalists to dangers of hate speech was also raised during the Blended-Learning program. It included the role of media in helping to defuse tension, strengthen tolerance, dialogue and peaceful co-existence. Following the initial face to face workshop which was conducted at the beginning of the program in Eldoret, the team of a local Kenyan and a DW Akademie trainer asked participants to complete a series of online modules. Rewriting articles on conflict sensitive issues, researching on new topics or selection of interview partners were among the weekly online modules to work on.
To conclude the program, participants returned to Eldoret for a week long final face to face workshop. They shared their findings, tweaked their ideas and compiled them into feature stories. Having participated in the Blended-Learning program which took three months the participants had a chance to revamp their current working culture and practices.
Eldoret – a town with a distressing past
This year’s Blended-Learning program came after a successful pilot program which was done in 2016. The team selected Eldoret, a town heavily affected by the 2007 post election violence as the location for the face to face phases of the 2017 Blended-Learning program. Located in western Kenya, Eldoret is the fifth largest town in the country with a population of 300,000 people. Early January 2008, dozens of people seeking refuge in the church of Kiambaa near Eldoret lost their lives when the church was burned to the ground by a mob. Most of the people burnt alive were women and children whose villages had earlier been attacked.
Other fleeing populations sought refuge and protection from the Roman Catholic Bishop Cornelius Korir. More than 10,000 were given sanctuary in the compounds of the Sacred Heart Cathedral church in the center of Eldoret town. Bishop Korir acknowledges that the media has an important role to play in the coming election. In an interview with Allan Obiero of Radio Nam Lolwe in Kisumu, a participant of the Blended-Learning program, Bishop Kori said that media reports are very often biased. He also said that media should give airtime to all political parties and not favor a single political party.
This message from the Bishop had also an effect on the participants of the conflict sensitive program. Nebert Wafula from Radio West fm in Bungoma said the training was not only important for him personally but also for his colleagues at West fm. Right from the beginning of the training, he has been discussing and sharing the knowledge and skills he gained with his colleagues. “Most of us didn't know about Conflict Sensitive Journalism (CSJ). We have been reporting, editing, producing things we didn't know that maybe they are hurting others. But now through this training, we know what is good and what is bad”.