Kenya’s national press have been praised officially by the government, and generally over social media, following the elections on 4 March.

In a report released by Kenya’s information ministry, the government said the media performed well compared to the 2007 elections. It said the local media played a proactive role in propagating peace and national cohesion, and that nearly all local media houses tried to cover the elections day and night, according to national newspaper, the Star.

In a period that saw foreign press roundly derided in Kenya for negative coverage, there was measured praise for local press: “In this awkward encounter of foreign media, national media and new media, it seems clear that something quite unique is needed, and indeed, possible,” wrote researcher Nicholas Benequista, on the Africa blog at the London School of Economics.

Benequista added: “Kenyan journalism can set a new, better standard. Election coverage in Kenya [in 2013] gave us a glimpse of that possibility.

“Mass media is where we go when we are at our most anxious… where we go to find comfort in our togetherness. And while the foreign press is no place to gather for Kenyans, the national media have been.

“Accolades for the national media came in a flood on Twitter, just as the mockery and the derision of the foreign press had come earlier in the week,” observed Benequista.

But he and others point out the costs of Kenyan media over-compensating and self-censoring to prevent violence.

The government report goes on to commends the media for “calling for patience before the announcement of the final results”. The Star wrote that the report had criticised some vernacular stations for allegedly providing a platform for politicians to spread hate speech.

The country has remained relatively peaceful during and after voting, in contrast to 2007, when over a thousand people died in election-related violence. The nation now awaits the outcome of a supreme court appeal filed by  Prime Minister Raila Odinga last weekend, against Uhuru Kenyatta’s slim presidential election victory.


Image: Creative Commons/ILRI/Susan MacMillan