Genered coverage : women representation by the media and its influence on the political and democratisation process in Kenya
Muhatia, Catherine Misiko
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Gender equality and equity as a developmental concept is a concern for most of the developing countries where the disparity rates are still high. Despite several socioeconomic improvements, and advocacy towards women inclusion in key decision making organs, Kenya is one of the few developing countries whose overall gender balance in the key decision making positions particularly in the political arena is skewed towards the male gender. The role of the media becomes crucial in the formation of voters' opinions and perceptions; given that few people have the chance to meet in person candidates aspiring for political office. In the context of the above, media's role in presenting or 'framing',political candidates deserves special consideration. The purpose of this study was to investigate the interconnection and interface between gender coverage. It offers a broad retrospective analysis of the role of the media in the women participation in political and democratisation processes in the country. It explores the role of women in politics and fostering democratization and the role played by the media in the processes. The overall objective of this study was to analyze women representation by the media as well as to analyze their influence on the political and democratic process in Kenya. This study adopted both descriptive and explanatory designs. First, the study described the gender representation in daily nation newspaper over the study period. Second, explanatory approach attempted to investigate the causes of that gender representation and its implication on political and democratisation processes in the country, carefully testing causal research questions of the study. In designing this study, first the field of study is identified to be a contemporary Nation Media Group (NMG) and its daily nation newspaper is selected for its content analysis. Using purposeful sampling design, a total oftenjoumalists from Nation Media Group were sampled and interviewed. This research combined both qualitative: semi-structured interviews and observation which were supplemented by quantitative technique of content analysis. For content analysis, daily newspaper articles for a two month period from 26/10/2007 to the eve of the elections on 26/12/2007 were analysed. The study revealed that there was a gross gender imbalance in print media. Female coverage was found to be very rare in the front-page stories, and this does not reflect a true picture of society in terms of gender demographic representation in the country. The editors felt that journalists tended to select sources from only those they are familiar with, and this translated to sourcing news information from a small circuit of elite male politicians. These male elites happen to be those already elevated to the circuit of recognizable names in society. This research concludes that there are gender imbalances in actor and source selection, pointing to lack of consideration of the importance of female politicians in the front-page stories of the Daily Nation newspaper. The implications for the Daily Nation newspaper are 1) it may seem to the readers that women politicians are irrelevant and relatively unimportant in terms of offering valuable information in a political and democratic society, which is a particular point of view, 2) it may appear that the Daily Nation perpetuates views of a male politicians are people with political power, while still claiming to be representing different perspectives in media reporting independently of political influence by powerful male elite in society, and 3) the newspaper, by narrowing media coverage to such a small male-dominated sector of society, does not satisfactorily give a rich picture of the sociopolitical reality which is made up of diverse groups of people that are representing varying views and interests. From the political arena, this study revealed that limited women representation in print media inhibits their participation in the political process. The daily newspaper tendency to skew the selection of front -page news sources to male politicians in society who do not represent the views of majority in terms of social and demographic representation, may construe the newspapers ignorance of its role of the press in democracy. This reveals that by excluding women from print media coverage the Daily Nation seems to have ignored the importance associated with what is viewed as true diversity in democratic societies.