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Media must stand in the gap for the poor



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For the past year or so, but more intensely in recent weeks, the media exposure of corruption has been exceptionally laudable. The focus shift to ‘fat cats’ provides hope to the lowly. But how long will the intensity be sustained, what with the fluctuating relationship between the media and the government?

Take the case of elections. The reporting of presidential election results remains a puzzle — at least to the public.

In the run-up to the General Election, much energy is spent on discussions on the positive role of the media in democratic processes and, therefore, the need for independent media tallying and relaying of results.

But at the decisive moment, the electoral commission’s tallying report becomes the unquestionable and definitively authoritative data on the elections.

All the energies, workshops, meetings, election reporting and goodwill gestures on how to support reporting of the elections fatally collapse.

When the confusion clears away (rather mysteriously, one must add), the media go back to their many forums and restart discussions all over on how to improve on election reporting!

The case has lessons on reporting the war against corruption. First, like elections, corruption has outcomes.

‘Stakeholders’ in the corruption cases have an interest in how the reporting will affect their intended outcomes.

Whether one is acting victim or perpetrator of the reporting, the outcome, which is the direction public perception swings, spells hope or fear.

If there is consistent rise in fear, those affected will surely act, and brutally so. As a result, the coverage may diminish.

Secondly, just as election outcomes leave us deeply divided, corruption leaves us horribly poor. Looking at the huge figures thrown at us, one wonders what a prosperous country we would be with prudent use of such resources.

The media have done well providing insightful public education on what we lose to the plunder of public funds. But therein lies the risk.

Most politicians thrive where critical information on accountability and transparency is scant.

Often, maximum energy is spent on revenue collection and minimum on accountability and transparency.

Consistent reporting of cases translates into exposing well-positioned stakeholders in the corruption industry.

At the critical moment when such information is needed by the public to make informed decisions, the media experience intermittent ‘blackouts’.

Third, one of the main reasons why the media have a field day in reporting corruption is because President Kenyatta seems determined to take on the cartels.

But what if opinion in high government spaces is divided on how graft will affect friend and foe in public offices?

Finally, stakeholders in the corruption industry negotiate. No one will wait to be hung.

The settlements on the nature and character of their responsibilities is highly secretive and the public can only second-guess culpability.

Like the “Handshake”, we got the peace we tirelessly prayed for but lost out on justice.

The justice would have answered to the question why we spent huge sums of money on a process that would leave us poorer and set one against the other.

The media have to stand on the side of the poor through the corruption war. We need both peace and justice in the war.