Friday, February 2, 2018

Kenyan situation highlights need for PJ
(Gondar, Ethiopia)—In a move that underscores the need for peace journalism, the Kenyan government this week shut down three TV networks, including the powerful and popular NTV. The shutdown was overturned by a Kenyan court, though the networks were still off the air 24 hours later.

The stated reason for the shutdown was fear that a broadcast planned by the networks would incite violence. The broadcast in question was a live feed of the faux inauguration of Raila Odinga, who finished second in two disputed presidential elections last year.

The showdown blatantly violates Kenya’s constitution, which unequivocally guarantees press freedom. NTV and the others were well within their rights to broadcast Odinga’s event, which is clearly news.

Was the Kenyan government truly concerned that broadcasting Odinga’s protest inauguration live would inflame violence, or instead was the move simply political, designed to marginalize a political opponent?

If there is genuine fear of violence, those concerns are no doubt fueled by the awful events of 2007-08 when several Kenyan vernacular language radio stations stoked inter-ethnic violence that claimed 800-1000 lives and displaced 250,000. Had radio stations practiced peace journalism, the 2007-08 violence would have been avoided or mitigated, removing an excuse for the government to harass and censor the media.

At the end of one of my recent seminars in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia, one young reporter asked me, “If reporters practice peace journalism, can we avoid censorship?” My answer was that good journalism, especially peace journalism, is harder to censor, whereas irresponsible, inflammatory, sloppy journalism makes tighter control easier for authorities. Unfortunately, this is what we are seeing unfold now in Kenya. It’s no telling how long Kenyan journalists will be made to pay for the transgressions of some of their colleagues a decade ago. 

All fine in Gondar
Prior to the start of the semester, I'm hard at work here on lesson plans, meetings with my dept chair and other faculty, etc. I'm also planning for an upcoming two day seminar in nearby Bahir Dar. Also, I'm moving today from a hotel into my apartment. Will post pictures soon, if I can. The internet here is terrible--very slow and unreliable.

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