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Media ought to have questioned Infotrak cover-up of poor MPs in performance poll

Infotrak released a national poll on November 5 rating all the Members of Parliament.

Kiharu Member of Parliament Ndindi Nyoro is the best performing MP in the country. This is according to an Infotrak survey released today, highlighting the performance and rating of Members of Parliament in Kenya,” NTV Weekend Edition reported.

The scores were based on “the delivery of their manifestos, development track, legislative representation on the floor of the House and their availability to the electorate.”

Best 150 MPs,” the Daily Nation banner headline crowed on November 6, with mugshots of the top performers and their scores. “A majority of Kenyans think MPs have performed well since they were elected to office last August, with Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro topping the charts, according to a new Infotrak poll,” the paper said.

The People Daily carried a report titled, “Nyoro outshines colleagues in House,” (November 6, p.3).

In all media coverage of this poll, there was not a word about the poor performers. Infotrak threw a protective blanket over them. Why?

Only The Star newspaper raised the issue. “Unlike in the past polling, this year’s report mentions only the top half of performing MPs, leaving Kenyans guessing on the bottom performers,” Lion Place reported.

Infotrak CEO Angela Ambitho told The Star that although all the 290 constituencies were covered, the pollster decided to publish only the names and scores of those who performed well.

If an MP is not appearing in the top half that means they are in the bottom half,” she said.

The import of this case was to showcase best performers and not to embarrass anybody,” Ambitho said. “We just made the decision from the perspective of experience from the past survey where the bottom performers were very uncomfortable.”

Yadda, yadda, yadda. Why conduct a performance survey if you fear releasing the full results? Ati some MPs would ‘catch feelings’?

This question goes to the heart of journalism and the ethics of truth telling. It is not that there were no results of the poor performers. Infotrak hid them deliberately.

In the interest of accuracy and fairness, the Code of Conduct for the Practice of Journalism in Kenya stipulates that, “A person subject to this Act shall write a fair, accurate and an unbiased story on matters of public interest,” and “All sides of the story shall be reported, wherever possible.”

What are the sides of a performance survey story: That there are top scorers and poor performers.

Ethical journalism demands that you report both. That is what “a fair, accurate and an unbiased story” would look like.

Why would a pollster conduct a performance survey of MPs nationwide but only release the results of the top scorers?

In whose interest was this done? Were the constituents who took part in the poll informed that if their MP performed poorly his or her scores would not be published? If respondents willingly and freely participated in the poll, they certainly expected that their opinions would matter in deciding the final result.

By not releasing the names and scores of the “bottom performers”, Infotrak silenced the respondents who gave their MPs those low scores. Is that truth telling? Is it fair?

Why was the pollster biased in favour of the MPs, not the voters? If opinion polling is a tool for advancing good governance, then Infotrak undermined its own mandate by selective release of the poll results. That’s pure PR.

Research pursues the truth. Ditto the media. Sio ma-feelings. You can’t refuse to publish the truth ati because some people would be “very uncomfortable.” That, in fact, is precisely the point for truth telling. You are holding power to account. You are providing voters with a tool to evaluate their leaders. How do you achieve this by hiding the results of leaders rated as poor performers?

If as a pollster you do not have the guts to publish the truth, which you have established by your own research, you are in the wrong business.

And why did the media abet this? How is the media independent when it aids Infotrak to withhold certain info for reasons other than the public interest? How is the public interest served by this biased reporting? Doesn’t this amount to allowing other interests to usurp editorial judgement?

Great journalism would have grabbed the full Infotrak poll report and told both sides of the story, or entirely ignored Angela Ambitho and her PR for Waheshimiwa.

See you next week!

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