Media Ownership and the Coverage of the 2013 General Election in Kenya:Democracy at the Crossroads

Tome Francis Simiyu


 This research explores the relationship between journalistic freedom and media concentration in Kenya through the lens of the propaganda model (Baker, 2007) as well as the Media Ownership Theory, as propounded by Shoemaker and Reese (1991). It concludes that media ownership and media concentration have led to a constriction of the diversity of viewpoints in Kenya. The research is based on two surveys: (1) a survey of the public’s confidence in the conduct of journalists during the 2013 general election in Kenya, and (2) a survey of journalists' perceptions of the influence of media ownership on journalistic independence in Kenya.The findings indicate that 71% of journalists believe media diversity in Kenya is at risk, whilst 69% of the respondents believe that the risk is occasioned by unhealthy media ownership trends in Kenya. While almost every journalist surveyed agreed that independence of the media is important to democratic life, more than half (52%) of journalists said media owners had direct editorial influence on their work. The perceived climate of distrust dogging the mainstream media in Kenya and the resultant viewpoint constriction explain why more Kenyans are turning to citizen journalism as an alternative source of information. This survey raises further questions about future implications for journalistic independence given the emergence and dominance of media concentration in Kenya. 

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