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TV, radio wars in Meru County put media ethics to the test

By MCK Meru Team

The media landscape in Meru County presents an intriguing scenario that highlights the delicate intersection of politics and the proliferation of vernacular radio and TV stations across the nation. Local media in Meru is largely shaped by three key players: Baite TV, Meru TV, and Thiiri FM—each owned by political figures. Governor Kawira Mwangaza owns Baite TV, while Tigania East MP Mpuru Aburi is the proprietor of both Thiiri FM and Meru TV.

This media landscape has transformed into a battleground for the ongoing political rivalry between these two prominent figures, each vying for influence among the Ameru. The ensuing media conflicts have underscored the significance of adhering to journalistic ethics, particularly within local vernacular media outlets. Sadly, an evident bias permeates the editorial and advertising content of these three outlets, with limited efforts to uphold principles of accuracy and fairness.

Under the ownership of Governor Mwangaza, Baite TV extensively focuses on her activities, showcasing her supporters while disregarding opposing viewpoints. Notably, on August 27 Baite TV aired a news segment on Tigania East constituency. All the interviewees criticised the area’s Member of Parliament, highlighting his focus on attacking the governor instead of prioritising local development. It’s worth mentioning that in a constituency where the MP is widely popular, the interviews solely featured supporters of the governor.

Conversely, Thiiri FM and Meru TV of MP Aburi have transformed into platforms for direct criticism of the leadership of Meru County. The programming on Thiiri FM, in particular, prominently showcases critics of the governor, resulting in a heated political confrontation between the MP and the governor. For instance, on August 21 during their morning show, MP Mpuru Aburi was in the studio making allegations about the governor’s actions, including claims of visiting a mortuary while driving a Probox at night for rituals. Additionally, the MP accused the governor of neglecting her husband’s children, where he claimed that the children school fees is paid by a certain Meru politician, who is also a critic of the governor.

Surprisingly, during this exchange, the show host failed to uphold journalistic ethics by not questioning or scrutinising the MP’s allegations. This absence of critical inquiry raises concerns about the objectivity and integrity of the journalistic practices observed during such shows.

The engagement of local media in the battle for Ameru support raises legitimate concerns about the professionalism upheld by the rapidly growing “village media.” This situation also exposes the broader challenge of preventing local vernacular media outlets from devolving into tools for propaganda, misinformation, and defamation amid the political tug-of-war for control over local media.

Addressing this issue necessitates comprehensive training for practitioners in local vernacular media, including the proprietors themselves, on the fundamental tenets of journalism. Regardless of the media’s origin, all outlets should adhere to the established Code of Conduct for the Practice of Journalism in Kenya, to ensure the integrity of media platforms even in the midst of political dynamics.

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