The role of media in conflict management: the case of electoral conflict in Uasin Gishu County, Kenya.
Chebii, Zachary Kiplagat
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The role played by the media in conflicts has been an issue all over the world. Its influence has increased tremendously and researchers are yet to agree on the degree and magnitude of the media influence in conflicts and conflict management. The aim of this study was to analyze the role of media in conflict management, with reference to 2007/08 Post Election Violence in Kenya and Uasin Gishu County as a case area. The specific objectives were to establish the media accessibility level and the various types of media coverage; to establish the extent to which media escalated and/or deescalated violence during the 2007/2008 Post Election Violence; to determine how media could influence selected human factors towards conflict in the County. Both the libertarian and social responsibility theories of media reporting were analyzed to explain media roles and to develop the conceptual framework. A descriptive research design and random stratified sampling method with a sample size of 373 respondents was used. Primary data was obtained via questionnaires and in-depth interviews analyzed with Statistical Package for Social Science (SPSS) software version 14.0 and presented in tables, charts and graphs with a brief description thereafter. The study found out that media played both conflict escalation and de-escalation roles during 2007/08 Post Election Violence. Some of the negative media roles include encouraging hate speech, running parallel tallying centers, misrepresentation of information, and incitement. Some positive roles include conducting civic education, preaching peace, fair coverage of political campaigns, and fair coverage of contentious issues during peace negotiations. The study found that media significantly influenced people based on age factor; highly influenced people based on gender factor; and moderately influenced people based on status and residence factors. However, media has low influence on people based on religious factor. The study recommends stringent measures for negative journalism while highlighting the merits of peace journalism. Some of the stringent measures recommended by the study include the adoption of a common approach in conflict reporting, the designing and enforcement of stringent regulations towards the control of vernacular FM stations, training of journalists on conflict reporting, the development of a standard conflict reporting procedure, media to be encouraged to report accurate and verified official electoral body results, and conflict reports to cut across all listeners without targeting particular groups.