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MP punches bishop over Ruto, Sondu needs conflict sensitive reporting

Content that trended on social media in the October 2-8 week includes Eldoret, Anne Waiguru, Ole Sapit, Multimedia University, Sondu, Cyprian Nyakundi, Moses Kuria, Nyanza, Israel Hamas, and Gaza. This report focuses on a few trends with the potential to impact media.

1. Ole Sapit

Kikuyu MP and National Assembly Leader of Majority Kimani Ichung’wah issued a robust response to the criticism levelled at President William Ruto’s Kenya Kwanza administration by Anglican Archbishop Jackson Ole Sapit. Ichung’wah’s remarks came after Sapit’s critique of the government, wherein he voiced concerns about the excessive taxation burden on citizens and insufficient efforts to alleviate the soaring cost of living. The Anglican primate questioned the government’s wisdom in introducing additional taxes, such as the fuel levy, when Kenyans were grappling with financial hardships. He argued that relying solely on tax to generate revenue for development was not sustainable. In contrast, the outspoken Kikuyu MP wasted no time in interpreting Sapit’s remarks as a politically motivated stance aligned with a faction critical of President Ruto’s administration. Ichung’wah asserted that Sapit had chosen to overlook the significant progress achieved under Ruto’s leadership due to his own political biases.

Impact on media

The tendency to politicise issues can lead to sensationalism in media coverage. Media outlets may prioritise stories that generate controversy and exacerbate polarisation of society. This sensationalism can overshadow substantive policy discussions and lead to a focus on personalities and political affiliations rather than the merits of issues. Economic concerns raised by figures like Archbishop Sapit are crucial for the public’s discourse. Analysts should assess how effectively the media covers these issues, whether they provide in-depth analysis, and whether they hold policymakers accountable for addressing economic challenges. This can impact public understanding of economic policies and their implications.

2. Multimedia University

Police clashed with students from Multimedia University in Rongai as they protested the delayed disbursement of Higher Education Loans Board funds. The unruly students ignited bonfires and obstructed roads around the campus, including the busy Magadi Road, on Tuesday morning. To restore order, law enforcement resorted to teargas. Amateur videos, extensively shared on various social media platforms such as X and Facebook, depicted students setting tires on fire and some attempting to evade the turmoil by scaling fences. As of now, the public institution has not issued an official statement regarding the protests.

Impact on media

The viral circulation of amateur footage on social media platforms underscores their growing importance as sources of news and information. While social media can be a valuable source of information, it also presents challenges related to authenticity and verification. Media organisations will need to invest in robust fact-checking processes to ensure the accuracy of information obtained from social media, especially during fast-evolving events like protests.

The virality of content online calls on the need for mainstream media to be cautious and get facts of a story before sharing. In this case the media seems to have missed out on the facts of the story and ran with the ‘breaking news’ tag.
3. Sondu

Lawmakers in Nyanza and Kericho are deeply concerned about the recent clashes in the Sondu area, along the border which have tragically claimed lives. National Assembly Minority Leader Opiyo Wandayi was at the fore front calling for action to halt the ongoing violence, emphasising that these skirmishes are rooted in ethnic tensions along the border. Nandi Senator Arap Cherargei in a rejoinder called on the Interior ministry to act with speed and bring to book those responsible for the clashes. He however blamed the Azimio One Kenya Alliance for the skirmishes that rocked the border town.

Impact on media

The conflict in Sondu got extensive media coverage. The involvement of lawmakers and other political figures in addressing the conflict amplifies its importance in the media. Political leaders’ statements and actions are often closely followed by the media, which can lead to increased coverage and public attention. However, the media needs to be cautious as they report on the conflict in the region. Conflict sensitive reporting skills must be exercised to avoid escalating an already ugly situation.

There is also a need to educate the public on responsible use of social media. In the wake of recent events in Sondu, a blogger shared a chilling account of an invasion. Sharing a graphic photos of the situation could likely evoke strong emotions from the public. This could lead to a surge in public outrage and calls for immediate action.

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