The role of media in conflict prevention: the case of general election in Kenya, 2013
In most cases, media is viewed as a tool to fuel violence in during election process in a democratized government in Africa because it brings out the reality on the ground and therefore ends ups escalating political tensions. However, media possesses the strength in its role as an agenda setter and therefore can be the best avenue to promote peace during election processes. In the Kenya General Election 2013, the media was overtly accused of failing to undertake its mandate of reporting irregularities and other injustices but sought to impose self-censorship. This study therefore set out to examine the role of media in conflict prevention during the Kenya’s General Elections, 2013 with a special interest to find out how media and democracy in Kenya has evolved, critically examined the legal frameworks governing media operations in Kenya as well as analyzed the media strategy employed for creating awareness to prevent conflict in Kenya. To be able to realize this goal, the study used the Agenda Setting theory which explained the strength and the ability of the media to replicate socio-cultural aspects of the society through provision of information. The theory informed that the media concentration on a few issues leads the public to perceive those issues as more important than any other issues. A descriptive survey was used to study the role of conflict prevention in Kenya. The study concentrated on the major mainstream media with fifty eight questionnaires being circulated to the media practitioners in those five selected media houses. The study found out that the Kenya General Elections 2013 were viewed as peaceful and that indeed media as medium of communication contributed to the prevention of conflict by media stations selecting which content to broadcast or print and what messages to put across to the nation. The numerous peace messages across the mainstream media too were a strategy to preach peace and shun any incitement of violence. The study realized that media is the best avenue to preach peace during election processes in Kenya due to its influence in the society. The airing of the presidential debate also contributed to the peaceful elections because it symbolized oneness among the presidential candidates. The study recommends the need for the government ministry responsible for communication to ensure that every media station has a written station policy that guides on material for broadcast and print; the Media Council of Kenya undertakes vigorous capacity building programmes among the members of the public to create awareness of the obligations of the media and their rights and the management of the media stations to set up capacity building trainings to build the journalists capacity on the existing legal frameworks that govern media in Kenya.