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Cablegate: Media Coverage of Kenyan Election Campaign: Reasonable

VZCZCXRO4826
PP RUEHROV
DE RUEHNR #4804/01 3521259
ZNR UUUUU ZZH
P 181259Z DEC 07
FM AMEMBASSY NAIROBI
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 3943
INFO RUCNIAD/IGAD COLLECTIVE PRIORITY

UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 04 NAIROBI 004804

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR AF, AF/E, AF/RSA, AF/EPS, IIP, IIP/AF
POSTS FOR PAO
SIPDIS

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV KDEM PREL OPRC PHUM KPAO KE

SUBJECT: MEDIA COVERAGE OF KENYAN ELECTION CAMPAIGN: REASONABLE
BALANCE, WITH NOTABLE EXCEPTIONS

REF: Nairobi 04755

1. Summary: A UNDP-funded, independent assessment of Kenyan
mainstream media coverage in the run-up to the December 27 general
election indicated that, from November 10 to December 10, media
coverage was generally balanced and accurate, with a few notable
exceptions. This coincided with US Embassy's more anecdotal
analysis, which concurred that the major print and electronic
outlets gave sufficient coverage to the leading parties' activities

to allow voters to make an informed choice. While some of the media

houses gave slightly more preferential treatment to one candidate or

party over the others, the state-run Kenya Broadcasting Corporation

(KBC) and privately-owned Citizen radio and television were
conspicuous in their extra coverage of President Kibaki and his
Party of National Unity (PNU). The mainstream media largely avoided

hate speech and incitement, but hate messages appeared in vernacular

media and in nontraditional media sources, i.e. websites and blogs.

Kenyan voters have easy access to diverse media voices, including
ridicule and critiques of prominent politicians and the most senior

government officials. End Summary.

UNDP Monitoring of Media in Campaign
----------------------- ------------

2. The UNDP contracted with Strategic Public Relations & Research
limited (SPRR) to monitor the media during the 2007 General Election

campaign to determine the degree of equitable reporting on electoral

issues as measured in terms of balance, accuracy, impartiality and
fairness. The media were assessed with regard to the Code of Conduct

for Journalistic Practice which provides guidelines on issues
including misrepresentation, discrimination, and covering ethnic,
religious, and sectarian conflict. SPRR also used the Code of
Conduct for Journalistic Practice, developed by editors and
journalists, to assess: accuracy and fairness; sources of
information; outside influences; the role of media owners and
opinion polls; the use of hate speech and incitement; publication of

advertorials and attacks and threats; and separation of fact and
opinion. The SPRR reports covered the three major parties --
President Kibaki's Party of National Unity (PNU), Raila Odinga's
Orange Democratic Movement (ODM), and Kalonzo Musyoka's Orange
Democratic Movement-Kenya (ODM-K).

3. SPRR monitored the six largest newspapers (Nation, Standard,
Kenya Times, People, East African, Nairobi Star); the top four
television stations (KBC, NTV, KTN, Citizen); and the six key radio

stations (KBC, KISS, Easy FM, Classic, Simba, Capital). They also
monitored vernacular radio (Musyi, Mulembe, Ramogi, Coro, Kass,
Egessa, Inooro, Sayare, Iqra, and Kameme). SPRR publicly issued its

analysis each month between September and December. The December 13

report covered approximately November 10 to December 10 and these
results reflected those of the previous reports. It concluded there

was a fair attempt by the mainstream media -- with a few exceptions

-- to keep their coverage of all major candidates and parties
reasonably balanced, not giving excessive coverage and support to
anyone. The primary exception was the state-run Kenya Broadcasting

Corporation, which showed strong partiality to the incumbent from
the beginning, despite assurances that this would not be the case.

Samuel Kivuitu, the Chairman of the Electoral Commission of Kenya,
publicly castigated KBC management for their biased coverage. We
did the same in a letter from the Ambassador to President Kibaki and

his top two competitors (reftel).

Balanced Radio Coverage of Parties
------------------ ---------------

4. Radio is the primary news source for the Kenyan people. Four of

the six radio stations, Capital FM, KISS FM, Easy FM, and Hope FM,
provided reasonably balanced coverage of the top two political

NAIROBI 00004804 002 OF 004


parties with only a few minutes of air time between them. In
contrast, state-owned KBC English and Kiswahili services and Citizen

Radio provided significantly more coverage to the President's PNU
activities than to either of the rival opposition parties while
Classic FM and Simba FM were even more biased toward Odinga's ODM
party.

Less Balance in Covering Candidates
----------------------- -----------

5. The majority of radio stations showed a greater degree of bias
in their mentions of candidates with Capital FM, KISS FM, Easy FM
Hope FM and Classic FM on average mentioning Odinga in 50% of their

election coverage, and Kibaki in only 32%. Again KBC English and
Swahili services stood out as the only broadcasts in which Kibaki
was mentioned significantly more frequently than Odinga (56% on
average mentioned Kibaki vice 25% for Odinga). Kibaki was also
mentioned more frequently than Odinga by Citizen FM and Simba FM,
but by smaller margins.

Positive or Negative Coverage; Positioning of Coverage
----------------------- ------------------------------

6. An often hidden aspect of media coverage is the difference
between positive and negative reporting on candidates. In the first

instance, the media cover the direct actions and statements of the
candidates themselves. In the latter they choose to air grievances

and third person reports to the detriment of a candidate. KBC
general service and Swahili service provided much more positive
coverage of Kibaki (64%/63%) than Odinga (40%/41%), and
commensurately more negative coverage of Odinga (29%/26%) than
Kibaki (only 6%). Citizen FM followed the same trend, with high
positives and low negatives for Kibaki. Positive and negative
coverage of the candidates by the other mainstream stations was
relatively balanced. Nonetheless, the power of the incumbent was
present as five of the six radio stations, including Capital FM,
Easy FM, Hope FM, KBC, and Citizen FM, featured Kibaki as the lead
story more frequently than other candidates. KBC general service,

in particular, featured Kibaki in all of its lead stories, to the
exclusion of all other candidates. Only Classic FM, and, to a
lesser extent, KISS FM, more frequently featured stories on Odinga
as the lead story.

Vernacular Radio Stations: Catering to Tribal Audiences
------------------ ----------------------------------

7. Not surprisingly, the vernacular radio stations provided more
coverage to the parties and candidates who were perceived to be more

popular with their local audiences. Egessa, Kass, and Ramogi, which

target pro-opposition audiences who speak Kisii, Kalenjin and Luo in

western Kenya, carried more coverage on ODM than on the other two
parties. Obversely, Inooro FM ("the only pure Kikuyu station") and

Kameme FM, which broadcast in Kikuyu to Nairobi and Central and
Eastern provinces, provide much more coverage of both PNU and Kibaki

to the country's largest ethnic community and staunch supporters of

President Kibaki.

Pictures Tell the Story: Television Coverage
--------------------- -----------------------

8. KTN and NTV provided fairly balanced coverage for all three
candidates with only a few percentage points of air time separating

the top two candidates (mid-30's for both Kibaki and Odinga) while
giving significant coverage to the third candidate, Kalonzo Musyoka.

Again, KBC and Citizen television were strongly partial to President

Kibaki with coverage of two to one over Odinga in terms of air
time.

Positive or Negative Coverage and Positioning of Candidates
------------------- ---------------------------------------

9. The positioning of television coverage reflects similar
priorities. Both KBC and Citizen TV led broadcasts with news about

PNU more than 55% of the time while the KTN lead story focused on

NAIROBI 00004804 003 OF 004


ODM 60% of the time and on Odinga 43% of the time. The TV coverage

was generally more straightforward because of limited air time for
the news and did not lend itself to negative reports.

Newspaper Coverage Most Balanced
---------------------------------

10. In comparison with the electronic media, the print media
provided the most balanced coverage of the three political parties
and their presidential candidates, although preferences were still
noted. PNU received slightly more coverage than ODM and ODM-K in
the Nation and Kenya Times. On the other hand, ODM received
slightly greater coverage than the other parties in the Standard,
People's Daily, and Nairobi Star. But the variances were only a few

percentage points throughout the entire campaign season.

Polls Have an Effect on Coverage if not Electorate
------------------------ --------------------------

11. There were four major polls conducted among the electorate
throughout the campaign. The polls were a significant part of the
print media coverage. Initially there was a huge gap between the
incumbent and the aspirant. From the launch of the ODM party and
his candidacy, opposition leader Raila Odinga held a commanding 10-
15% lead over President Kibaki in three of the four polls. But as
the campaigns wore on over the last 12 weeks, there was a
significant tightening of the race to just a few points separating
the two. SPRR assessed that coverage of opinion polls by the media

has improved and become more factual. Previous mischaracterizations

of the polls and their survey group details had distorted people's
expectations for the final vote. It's hard to determine if this has

had an impact on the electorate, but there was a noticeable shift in

the coverage of The Standard, which had started out as at least a
low-key supporter of Odinga, to hedge its bets with more coverage
and editorials supporting the government candidate.

Positive and Negative Print Media Coverage
----------------- -------------------------

12. The balance between positive and negative print media coverage

was mixed. The People's and the Nairobi Star's positive and
negative comments about Kibaki and Odinga were evenly balanced, but

the Nation was more positive on Kibaki and more negative on Odinga.

The Standard was a bit more positive on Kibaki, and the Times was
somewhat more negative on Odinga, but were otherwise evenly
balanced. This is always hard to measure since newspapers, which
have more daily space to fill, are more likely to pick up and
publish negative comments from rival parties. It is interesting
that despite this tendency, the balance remained reasonable in all
the publications.

Hate Speech in Nontraditional Media Sources, Vernacular Media
----------------------- -------------------------------------

13. The SPRR report indicated that mainstream media had largely
avoided hate speech and incitement. However, other observers
reported hate messages increased in both vernacular media and
nontraditional media sources including SMS messages on mobile
phones, leaflets, emails, blogs, and online chatrooms. Blogs and
e-
mails have been turned into campaign platforms for and against
presidential candidates. Online fora became increasingly virulent,

nasty, scandalous, including ethnic and sexual stereotypes, and even

libelous. Odinga has been the target of most of this messaging,
although President Kibaki has received his share. A Kenyan National

Commission On Human Rights (KNCHR) report cited instances of
derogatory remarks by some PNU members against Odinga referring to
the Luos' lack of male circumcision as "uncivilized." They also
compared Odinga to Idi Amin, Castro, Satan, Hugo Chavez, and
Hitler.

14. Vernacular stations have also been accused of fanning tribal
hatred, with some being used by politicians for their own campaigns.

Local FM stations also came under scathing attack from the Media
Council of Kenya over their sloppy practices. One vernacular
station's inaccurate reports on the outcome of party nominations for

NAIROBI 00004804 004 OF 004

Parliamentary candidates were blamed for protests and the burning of

houses in the troubled Kuresoi area of Molo District.

Comment
----------

15. Post interprets SPRR's detailed analysis of Kenyan mainstream
media campaign coverage to show that, despite the blatant pro-Kibaki

bias of KBC and Citizen, the media provided sufficiently balanced
coverage of party/candidate activities to allow voters to make an
informed choice. However, coverage by some media outlets
demonstrated a partisan bias. Although hate messages appeared in
vernacular media and in nontraditional media sources, the mainstream

media generally refrained from such attacks. Kenyan voters have
easy access to diverse media voices, including ridicule and
critiques of prominent politicians and the most senior government
officials.

Ranneberger

© Scoop Media

 
 
 
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