70 local journalists drawn from Nairobi, Kajiado, Makueni and Machakos participated in a two day Election Preparedness workshop organised by the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions, ODPP, at the Machakos University.
The role of the media during an election year was central in discussions that also touched on legal and institutional parameters, poll offenses and laws.
The following tips captured during a Media and Elections session facilitated by veteran journalist, Patrick Mayoyo, will help a media practitioner to cover elections more effectively.
1.Treat opinion polls with caution. Public opinion polls are a staple of campaign coverage, but reporters must ask many questions when reporting on surveys, including: who commissioned and paid for the survey, what polling group did it, when and how was it conducted, how many and who were surveyed, what was asked and what is the polling margin of error? Reporters should also question news value and ask whether all responses are included and if the new results are different from other polls.
2.Networking among the political class. Have a trusted network.-Top political leaders b). MPs c). Governors d). Senators and e) Political Parties leaders
3.Think voters. Covering an election is much more than reporting on candidates and their issues. Voters’s issues matter most. Find out voters’ top concerns, then send their questions to the political parties to address. The reverse shouldn’t happen with only candidates’ issues being presented. Voters are the crucial players in elections: they vote.
4.Know the election laws. They are the road map for how parties can form, who can run for office, what boundaries make up electoral areas and how election violations will be handled.
Read the Constitution, Political Parties Act, IEBC Act, Election Offences Act, Election Act, Election Financing Act and party and candidates manifestos.
5.Start early. Don’t wait until the campaign period to plan election coverage. Much research and reporting can be done in advance of the frenzied campaign period. Analyze and compare parties’ platforms, start candidates’ profiles, begin voters surveys of key issues and plan for questionnaires on those issues to go to candidates. Map out story schedules for running election features, plan for election specials or sections, and decide who will cover what and whom.
6.Follow the money. Track how the election is being funded, where candidates and parties are getting their support and whether election laws on party and candidate financing are being followed. Election Financing Act.
7.Study voter registration procedures. Follow the voter registration process and know how voters are listed. Establish if there is double voter registration and how it is being done. Compare IEBC procedures to international standards. Investigate whether restrictions have been placed because of a citizen’s gender, race, family or religion, and whether a fee is required to register.
8.Fact check everything. In campaigns, candidates and parties spew all kinds of statistics. Take nothing at face value; check every statement, such as how a candidate’s promises today correspond with what he or she said in the past. Develop a contact list of trusted experts and institutions early in the game — domestic and international — with whom to check candidate and party assertions.
9.Be especially alert on election day: Talk to voters waiting to vote or coming from polling stations. Ask if they were pressured to vote a certain way. Question whether there are enough ballots, ballot boxes and officials to observe the voting and ballot counting. Look for sealed voting boxes, unscreened voting booths, and people being turned away. Know how ballots are being secured, tallied and transported and if this is being monitored by nonpartisan election monitors.
10.Know you are crucial. The media has an irreplaceable role in the election process. Voters must have enough information about candidates, political parties and the election process to make informed and responsible choices in the ballot booth. They get much of that from you: journalists. Always be balanced, unbiased and truthful.