The role of the media in conflict situations in Kenya: A case of the Tana Delta conflict.
Shitemi, Baron Khamadi
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This study sought to establish the role of media in conflict situations with a special focus on the Tana delta conflict that occurred in the months of August and September 2012. The objectives were to explain the causes of the Tana Delta Conflict, to investigate the role of the Kenyan media during the Tana Delta Conflict and to assess the impact of the media reports on the Tana delta conflict. Media is a critical player in times of conflict (Berger 2011). The information being conveyed, the means used and how it is done can shape the dynamics of a conflict. It can help to end hostilities, create an understanding of the issues of the conflict and also be the bridge to fast and amicable conflict resolution. However when badly used, it can also flame the violent conflict and make it difficult for conflict resolution processes to succeed (Frere 2011). Kenya has had a fair share of conflicts and some are still being experienced today. The 2007/8 post election violence was however the most devastating in terms of deaths, displacement and destruction of property. The Tana delta conflict of August and September 2012 was the most devastating in terms of lost lives, over 100 after the 2007/8 violent conflict. It is therefore useful to find out whether media covered it sensationally or otherwise. Conflict theory and peace journalism theory were used to guide the study. The two theories bring out the issues of resources and conflicts and how journalists should informatively report on them. The research used descriptive research as the research design. The study targeted a population of 200 individuals in Tana River who reside around the conflict area and also journalists who covered the conflict. Among these a sample size of 100 was picked through stratified sampling to obtain the research sample. The data collected was analyzed qualitatively and quantitatively. This included the use of charts, figures and percentages. Questionnaires were used for data collection using both structured and unstructured questions. Personal interviews were also used to get in-depth data. The researcher analyzed the data and generated findings which demonstrated that media does have a role in conflict situations. Data collected illustrated that media has a role in framing conflicts depending on how it reports on them. It also has a role in escalating conflict if it does not report on it informatively. The media has a critical role in providing balanced reporting through good investigative journalism. Peace building and the use of community and vernacular radio stations are tools that can be used during conflict situation to promote peace and tranquility. The study recommends continuous training and capacity enhancement of journalists both in institutions of higher learning and media houses especially in conflict reporting to ensure they are good agents of informative journalism.