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Chase ads, but leave witches to pursue their arts in the dark

By Eric Ndung’u

Print media has a historical place in the development of media in Kenya. From the colonial era to the age of the internet, print has contributed significantly to information, education, and entertainment of the public.

For sustainability, the medium ought to craft a strategy for remaining relevant amid a changing and complex media landscape. Advertising is the area of marketing concerned with the communication of information by companies to potential customers. Besides circulation revenue, advertising contributes a significant amount of revenue to media houses.

But not everything can be advertised. Of concern, is a trend picked out by monitoring reports on particularly The Star. The newspaper is flagged for repeated advertising of what would be termed as a violation of The Code of Conduct for the Practice of Journalism in Kenya, The Advertisers Code of Conduct and possibly the Witchcraft Act, CAP 67.

Witchcraft is defined as the use of magical faculties, most commonly for religious, divinatory, or medicinal purposes. Some ads in The Star are about magic.

The advertisements are found within a pool of other relevant and credible ads, however, propagation of notions that there exist individuals with powers to perform special prayers and use powerful substances to aid with promotions, court cases, infertility and other issues is misleading, inaccurate, a disregard for the rule of law and possibly violation of the Advertiser’s Code.

Clauses 2 and 25 of the Journalism Code demand that journalists write a fair, accurate and an unbiased story on matters of public interest, and that the editor shall not allow any advertisement which is contrary to any aspect of the Code of Conduct. The editor shall be guided by the Advertiser’s Code.

Misleading content is not limited to print, however, but has also been noted in religious media stations where preachers engage in spurious interpretations of the scriptures. Last year, Sauti Ya Mwananchi received a cease-and-desist letter following airing of content similar to The Star advertisements.

In this regard, the media ought to be careful in the airing of material that could be classified as enabling witchcraft and violating the codes of conduct. Advertisements are monitored under these codes and disciplinary action could be taken for misleading and false material. The media exists as a force for good and an enabler of the national values outlined in the Constitution of Kenya.

Writer is research officer at MCK

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