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Unethical exposure: Videos and images in Meru governor’s impeachment hearing

Meru Governor Kawira Mwangaza’s recent impeachment hearing at the Senate sparked controversy when videos containing offensive and inappropriate content were played during the session. These videos, which violated ethical guidelines outlined in the Code of Conduct for the Practice of Journalism, raised concerns about the responsible use of the media during public proceedings. This article explores the ethical implications of broadcasting such videos and images and the responsibility of media organisations to uphold ethical standards.

One of the viral videos played during the hearing featured MP Tigania East Mpuri Aburi making derogatory comments about the governor. Many Kenyans on X condemned the sentiments from the legislator, among them Kirinyaga Senator John Mutheu who posted on X platform, that: “The image that was played in defense of Governor Kawira Mwangaza painted an image of a patriarchal community- deep, painful images that I would never want my own children, my wife to go through”.

Aburi’s statement not only lacked sensitivity to Governor Mwangaza but also violated ethical guidelines that prohibit the dissemination of explicit content or offensive language. Media organisation such as Citizen TV and TV 47 that aired the live coverage of the hearing had the responsibility to ensure that the content being broadcasted adhered to ethical standards for the following reasons.

One, the media has a duty to protect vulnerable individuals. Governor Mwangaza, as a woman facing an impeachment hearing, could be considered a vulnerable individual in this context. The media has a responsibility to protect the dignity and wellbeing of such individuals, especially when their personal reputation and integrity are under scrutiny. Airing derogatory remarks about her without any context or warning is a breach of this responsibility.

Two, impact on family members. Airing such offensive content can have significant emotional and psychological impact not only on Mwangaza but also on her family members. It is the duty of the media to exercise discretion and compassion when reporting on sensitive matters, particularly when it involves personal attacks and character assassination.

Third, audience considerations. The media should also consider its audience which includes viewers of all ages, including children and teenagers. Airing content with explicit and offensive language without warnings or disclaimers can be highly inappropriate and potentially harmful to younger audiences. Ethical guidelines dictate that media should consider the potential impact on their viewers.

And, finally, professionalism. The use of such explicit language and derogatory comments is unprofessional and goes against the principles of unbiased reporting. The media should maintain high standards of professionalism as stipulated in the Code of Conduct, especially during the coverage of significant political events like Mwangaza’s impeachment hearing.

In conclusion, the affected media should have either refrained from airing such offensive content, or at very least provided clear warnings to their audiences and possibly gone on a commercial break during sensitive portions of the hearing. This is probably where the seven seconds delay is applicable, no?

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