Advanced

THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT AND MEDIA CONFLICT IN WAR: A CASE OF THE KENYAN 2007/2008 ELECTION VIOLENCE

Okwengu, Nancy LU (2010) SIMT93 20101
Master of Science in Development Studies
Graduate School
Department of Communication and Media
Abstract
Kenya as a country is known for its ethnic diversity and boasts of over 42 ethnic/tribes communities that for many years have lived together in harmony and respect for each other. In the face of this harmonious cohesion between the different communities, there have been sporadic threats on issues of resource distribution and political differences that have cultivated ethnic/tribal hatred and fighting especially during general elections that come every five years. This political/ ethnicity animosity has simmered in the country over the years but reached its climax in Dec 2007- Feb 2008 when the country broke into ethic fighting after a disputed presidential election involving candidates from two major ethic communities in the country. This... (More)
Kenya as a country is known for its ethnic diversity and boasts of over 42 ethnic/tribes communities that for many years have lived together in harmony and respect for each other. In the face of this harmonious cohesion between the different communities, there have been sporadic threats on issues of resource distribution and political differences that have cultivated ethnic/tribal hatred and fighting especially during general elections that come every five years. This political/ ethnicity animosity has simmered in the country over the years but reached its climax in Dec 2007- Feb 2008 when the country broke into ethic fighting after a disputed presidential election involving candidates from two major ethic communities in the country. This deepened the ethnic differences among Kenyans and further destroyed the cultural diversity that out to have been viewed as strength more than a diving factor. Though the violence was quelled and calm within two months of violence, the ethic difference remained deep among the Kenyans (Nyukuri, 2009: 4).
Historically, Kenya gained her independence in 1963 and it was not until 1992 that Kenya became a democratic state after many years of fighting for democracy. With the realization of democracy, various institutions such as the media gained freedom and rights of expression, speech among others (Ibid, 6-7). The Kenyan media also became commercial which meant that there was more than one avenue for media expression apart from the state owned media, Kenya Broadcasting Cooperation. Since then there are over 100 media outlets in print and broadcast media (Eken, 1996: 70-73). The advent of new media such as Facebook, Twitter has also given the Kenya audience diverse avenues for expression and gathering information.
In a country that both the media and the government feel they have authority to pass information, influence decisions, set agenda, it is almost unlikely to avoid conflict between these two powers. It was unfortunate that the Kenyan public was caught up in the middle of this fight. The government claimed the media was mostly responsible for spreading hate messages, lacked objectivity and took sides in coverage of political campaigns. On their defense media practitioners held that they are responsible for public information and that the public believes in the media than the government. The decisions and rebellion that followed this media-government wrangle resulted in over 1,650 deaths, over 600, 000 displace persons, and property worth millions of shillings destroyed. To date the country is still healing from the devastating effects of this conflict (Nyukuri, 2009: 15-16).
It is observable today that the media plays a key role (positive or negative) in the world‘s affairs, conflict, policy making and humanitarian response among others matters. The main goal of this study was to find out the role of the conflict between the government and the media‘s reporting during the election violence that hit Kenya 2007 following disputed election results that birthed Kenya‘s worst nationwide conflict.
The research also looked into the development and sequence of events that surrounded media coverage at that time. These included, sudden licensing of many vernacular radio station before the election, transmission of hate messages during political campaigns, the ban of live broadcast and the riots against the ban and eventually the full blown conflict (Kobia, 1984: 33-34).
Notably, over the recent years there has been much scholarly debate on the various roles of the media reporting during war. Most of these studies have focused on effects of exposure to war images on children‘s psychology, policy change, and future predication among others (Signorielli 2005:12). This research will therefore build on this question by uniquely centering on the accounts of government officials verses media practitioners.
The purpose of this study, therefore, was to explore and highlight the major occurrences that led to the conflict. The researcher found out that there is a blame game with the government asserting that the Kenyan media played a big role in the conflict, while the Kenyan media practitioners continue to defend their position as the 4th estate that are empowered by the citizen to pass information. The data that informed this was collected using qualitative research methods which included observations, key-informants interviews and questionnaires. Findings show that the government was responsible for the issuing various licenses to vernacular radio stations before the elections. These media channels could have possibly fueled the conflict. Actions such as banning of the media, the government believed was in the interest of national security of the country to put out the fire of hate massages that was quickly spreading throughout the country. The findings also reveal that the media practitioners believed they were responsible for passing information to the public; hence they acted in the interest of the public. The violence that broke after media ban is therefore not owned by either of the parties but has done too much damage. The researcher however concluded that both the media and government had a responsibility in the violence even though it wasn‘t clear whether these actions were intended or unintended.
Key Words: Media, Government, Conflict, Kenya (Less)
Please use this url to cite or link to this publication:
author
Okwengu, Nancy LU
supervisor
organization
course
SIMT93 20101
year
type
H1 - Master's Degree (One Year)
subject
keywords
Conflict, Media, Government, Kenya
language
English
id
1627669
date added to LUP
2010-07-13 15:31:53
date last changed
2014-09-08 14:04:11
@misc{1627669,
  abstract     = {Kenya as a country is known for its ethnic diversity and boasts of over 42 ethnic/tribes communities that for many years have lived together in harmony and respect for each other. In the face of this harmonious cohesion between the different communities, there have been sporadic threats on issues of resource distribution and political differences that have cultivated ethnic/tribal hatred and fighting especially during general elections that come every five years. This political/ ethnicity animosity has simmered in the country over the years but reached its climax in Dec 2007- Feb 2008 when the country broke into ethic fighting after a disputed presidential election involving candidates from two major ethic communities in the country. This deepened the ethnic differences among Kenyans and further destroyed the cultural diversity that out to have been viewed as strength more than a diving factor. Though the violence was quelled and calm within two months of violence, the ethic difference remained deep among the Kenyans (Nyukuri, 2009: 4).
Historically, Kenya gained her independence in 1963 and it was not until 1992 that Kenya became a democratic state after many years of fighting for democracy. With the realization of democracy, various institutions such as the media gained freedom and rights of expression, speech among others (Ibid, 6-7). The Kenyan media also became commercial which meant that there was more than one avenue for media expression apart from the state owned media, Kenya Broadcasting Cooperation. Since then there are over 100 media outlets in print and broadcast media (Eken, 1996: 70-73). The advent of new media such as Facebook, Twitter has also given the Kenya audience diverse avenues for expression and gathering information.
In a country that both the media and the government feel they have authority to pass information, influence decisions, set agenda, it is almost unlikely to avoid conflict between these two powers. It was unfortunate that the Kenyan public was caught up in the middle of this fight. The government claimed the media was mostly responsible for spreading hate messages, lacked objectivity and took sides in coverage of political campaigns. On their defense media practitioners held that they are responsible for public information and that the public believes in the media than the government. The decisions and rebellion that followed this media-government wrangle resulted in over 1,650 deaths, over 600, 000 displace persons, and property worth millions of shillings destroyed. To date the country is still healing from the devastating effects of this conflict (Nyukuri, 2009: 15-16).
It is observable today that the media plays a key role (positive or negative) in the world‘s affairs, conflict, policy making and humanitarian response among others matters. The main goal of this study was to find out the role of the conflict between the government and the media‘s reporting during the election violence that hit Kenya 2007 following disputed election results that birthed Kenya‘s worst nationwide conflict.
The research also looked into the development and sequence of events that surrounded media coverage at that time. These included, sudden licensing of many vernacular radio station before the election, transmission of hate messages during political campaigns, the ban of live broadcast and the riots against the ban and eventually the full blown conflict (Kobia, 1984: 33-34).
Notably, over the recent years there has been much scholarly debate on the various roles of the media reporting during war. Most of these studies have focused on effects of exposure to war images on children‘s psychology, policy change, and future predication among others (Signorielli 2005:12). This research will therefore build on this question by uniquely centering on the accounts of government officials verses media practitioners.
The purpose of this study, therefore, was to explore and highlight the major occurrences that led to the conflict. The researcher found out that there is a blame game with the government asserting that the Kenyan media played a big role in the conflict, while the Kenyan media practitioners continue to defend their position as the 4th estate that are empowered by the citizen to pass information. The data that informed this was collected using qualitative research methods which included observations, key-informants interviews and questionnaires. Findings show that the government was responsible for the issuing various licenses to vernacular radio stations before the elections. These media channels could have possibly fueled the conflict. Actions such as banning of the media, the government believed was in the interest of national security of the country to put out the fire of hate massages that was quickly spreading throughout the country. The findings also reveal that the media practitioners believed they were responsible for passing information to the public; hence they acted in the interest of the public. The violence that broke after media ban is therefore not owned by either of the parties but has done too much damage. The researcher however concluded that both the media and government had a responsibility in the violence even though it wasn‘t clear whether these actions were intended or unintended.
Key Words: Media, Government, Conflict, Kenya},
  author       = {Okwengu, Nancy},
  keyword      = {Conflict,Media,Government,Kenya},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  title        = {THE ROLE OF GOVERNMENT AND MEDIA CONFLICT IN WAR: A CASE OF THE KENYAN 2007/2008 ELECTION VIOLENCE},
  year         = {2010},
}