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Offended by media? Complaints body will listen

Victor Bwire

Media coverage of recent events has seen increasing feedback, including criticism on the manner and texture of some of the stories. That is healthy.

While some have sought court redress and got huge compensations from the media, others have resorted to attacking individual journalists.

Criticism is welcome as a peer review and accountability mechanism for the industry and an assurance that people are still consuming media products. However, the operating environment for the media has drastically changed and this calls for a new way of doing things.

The current operating environment, including demand for accountability, quality content, respect for the rule of law and dwindling revenues, requires that the media industry re-invents itself, both in terms of new business models and enhanced professionalism and self-regulation.

Tough times call for tough measures. To survive, the media must work on increasing public trust and spur audience confidence through quality content with focus on public interest issues. And this is achievable because others are doing it. Journalists just need to interact with colleagues from Sweden and Denmark and see the possibilities.

The media must also strive to create solidarity and a common agenda to not only reduce the divisions in the sector, but ensure that media issues are part of the national agenda. This will create a conducive environment for the media to play its rightful role in national development.

Media professionals must also wake up to the reality that the industry is under capture by dark forces; investors/owners, advertisers (public and private), commercial (dwindling revenues) and technological including fake news and influence of citizen information sources.

Since journalists are guided by a professional code of conduct, Kenyans should not feel helpless when offended by the media. The profession has enough mechanisms for self-regulation, both as an industry or at personal level. Indeed, the best mechanism globally to raise complaints against the media, especially media related breaches are civil in nature are best handled outside the judicial/court system.

Section 23 of the Media Act  2013 establishes the Complaints Commission at  the Media Council of Kenya, which  is  mandated  to, among other things, regulate  the ethical and professional standards of the Mass Media and to arbitrate disputes.

The commission’s decisions are guided by the code of conduct contained in the second schedule of the Media Act 2013.

The commission’s decisions act as deterrence against wanton behaviour by the media. Already, it has listened and made rulings in a number of media related cases that should inspire people to use it in solving media related disputes. The industry should respect the decisions made as a way of strengthening self-regulation.

—The writer works at the Media Council of Kenya

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