“The media is like a giant beast; its eyes, information, and its hands formation of public opinion. The media wins and loses elections. The media impeaches politicians and on its own the media watchdog’s government decisions and uncovers corrupt malpractices. The media is power we cannot and do not want to control. It’s the neo- doctor of our current sick society. When the media watches, stakeholders trembles, suffers anxiety and run away if they can but it’s precisely that power that can save democracy.” (Franceschi and Mwita (Quoted in PLO LUMUMBA, COK 2010, Strathmore University press, 2014 pg. 172.)
During the 2022 general election the media covered the entire process from start to finish. The common Wananchi relaxed cruising through Netflix, and chill probably listening to some saimtaimu we kikongwe hoping that then the media won’t feel the pressure to hurry. The media surely never disappoints as some media houses became secondary polling stations. You could tell the confusion in Kenyans’ eyes when they switched channels and every channel was giving its own tally. This topic had me scratching my head more than I scratch my back. Well, the media did its thing. Some media houses in their capacity conducted opinion polls thus begging the question on whether these polls were done by real humans. Only the media has answers. Did they create numbers just to show that their candidate was winning so as to shape the opinions of the general public? I leave this to be satisfied by your imagination. What is clear though is that in any way, the media over stretched their right under Article 34(2) of the constitution of Kenya.
Before we get there, some media houses went over and under to ensure the prowess of their preferred candidate was displayed. This was done through different kinds of polls aiming to predict the final outcome. In the constitution, the media has been granted rights to provide access to information but this is limited in cases of advocacy of hatred based on any grounds of discrimination. The courts of law give opinions on judgments based on evidence provided therefore judges being human, take note of everything that in the end influences the outcome. In this line, some of the things that might have been withdrawn during the stages of cross-examination go a long way to influence their opinion. Simply because an advocate said, “Withdrawn your honor,” doesn’t mean that the mind withdrew it. The reason for using this analogy is to show you that opinions go a long way to shape our judgement. Kyle Roberts, The President of Smart Media Group in a certain interview said, “Politics is an emotional game and TV is an emotional media, that is why it is the preferred battle ground.” Critically analyzing the statement gives us a brutal truth that encompasses politics and its relation to media. The media helps in shaping our judgement and it forms part of the crucial weapon to justice or injustice that ever exists, depending on the shoe that fits first. This is because the level of power it curtails can best be summarized in the words of Euripides, “When one with honeyed words but evil mind persuades the mob, great woes befall the state.” Such is the nature of the media.
In Conclusion, does the media play a role in electoral justice? To him who much is given, much is expected. With immense power comes immense responsibility and such is the nature of the media. The media has power to control minds and therefore an integral tool in shaping society. Dennis E. Adonis once stated that voting is not a right. It is a method used to determine which politician was most able to brainwash you. The media in this case acts as a perfect medium for brainwashing. As clearly seen above, the media plays a great role in electoral justice. However much the media might shape our judgement when it comes to electoral competence, the end result is determined by our actual vote hence Lincoln’s saying the ballot is stronger than the bullet. “Ideally, you’d rather have (voters) paying attention to debates. But they don’t. That’s why people use TV ads. They are the most powerful way still to reach voters who are only paying limited attention to a campaign…People who see TV ads usually end up knowing more about candidates.” These are words of Political expert Arthur Sanders from the Drake University. If our able president got half the support from the media as his opponent, would there have been such a tight race, probably not, but we leave that topic in the hands of speculations. With everything said, it is important though to appreciate the journey the media has travelled in enjoying its rights and freedom as an institution. Back before the enactment of the 2010 constitution, the media acted solely to impress the government. Now the media enjoys it’s independence. What should be noted though is that the rights of the media should be revisited and not focus on limiting their roles, but controlled to the extent at which their functions and duties are executed for the benefit of all and not just one party.
By Kevin Ryan Sagana
2nd Year LL.B student
University of Embu