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Power of words: Kiss FM’s Kwambox and need for radio professionalism

By Janet Kipya

In the dynamic world of radio broadcasting, the power of words cannot be underestimated. Radio presenters hold a unique position of shaping public opinion. However, the recent incident surrounding Kiss FM presenter Sheila Kwamboka, popularly known as Kwambox, underscores the critical need for sensitivity when dealing with delicate matters.

Kwambox found herself in a storm of criticism after making what many believed to be insensitive comments while hosting the Kiss FM Breakfast Show. Vibing to an Afrobeat tune playing in the background on Wednesday, January 17, she declared, “Even if you guys are not feeling Nigerians this week, I don’t care.”

This seemingly innocuous statement sparked outrage among Kenyans, particularly on social media platforms, who took it as a slight to a 20-year-old woman who was horrifically killed in an Airbnb apartment along TRM Drive in Nairobi. Following this killing and a previous similar murder, some Kenyans on social media have blamed Nigerian men without any concrete evidence.

X user @SirGlavan stated that, Imagine if the family of that girl would hear what Kwambox said, how would they feel?

@Kijana Yaa said: Where are we heading to as a country if our creatives are this insensitive?

The controversy that surrounded Kwambox’s remarks highlights the immense impact that radio presenters can have on public discourses and the responsibility that comes with their influential position. The fact that Kwambox apparently expressed a lack of concern for the sentiments to her audience reflects a troubling disregard for the potential consequences of her words. This raises questions not only about the sensitivity of her comments but also about the ethical obligations of radio presenters in shaping public opinion.

Kiss FM’s decision to remove the viral video clip following extensive backlash from Kenyans reflects an acknowledgement of the seriousness of Kwambox’s comments. But the five-hour delay in removing the post is a disheartening indication of the media’s responsibility to maintain integrity in their content. Radio presenters should be conscious of their influence on public opinion.

Moreover, presenters serve as a bridge between diverse audiences and their words can either foster unity or contribute to division. In the age of social media, where information spreads rapidly, the impact of a careless remark can be profound. Kwambox’s statement not only drew criticism but also highlighted the need for a thoughtful approach to sensitive topics on air.

Additionally, when addressing tragic events, particularly those involving an individual from a specific nationality or community, radio presenters should tread carefully. It is essential to recognise the gravity of the situation and acknowledge the pain and mourning within the affected communities. It is crucial for presenters to know statements that need to be blanketed, as the role of the media (including radio) is double edged – it is a platform that can contribute to social cohesion or discord.

In conclusion, the Kwambox incident and the online uproar highlights the importance of professional sensitivity for radio presenters. Words have the power to heal, or harm. Radio presenters must wield this power responsibly, especially when addressing sensitive topics. By fostering empathy and understanding, radio can be force for unity and positive change.

Writer is media analyst at MCK

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