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2nd EAC CONFERENCE ON GOOD GOVERNANCE 19TH-20TH AUGUST 2010 NAIROBI, KENYA

THE ROLE OF THE MEDIA IN PROMOTING GOOD GOVERNANCE IN THE REGION

BY Henry O. Maina1 Director, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa

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Henry Maina is the Director of ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa. He holds an LLM degree in International Development Law and Human Rights (Warwick, UK) specializing in governance and Human Rights. He also holds a Post-Graduate Diploma in Mass Communication (Nairobi, Kenya) and a Bachelor of Education (Moi, Kenya).

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” On 7th July 1990.Introduction In its very first edition. the traditions and institutions by which authority in a country is exercised for the common good.43. the 81-year old monarch died six days after the paper hit the streets with its assessment of his health. . in the use of the term governance.& Waarden. there is general agreement that it extends beyond the operations of governments to embrace a broad range of multi-layered social institutions and necessarily includes consideration of citizens and citizenship. F. the front page editorial stated the paper’s intention “to do our utmost to help Kenya and other East African territories make the perilous transition to African majority rule and full independence as peacefully and constructively as possible. The public interest approach to media as deployed here focuses especially on its potential contribution to governance. who had undergone treatment in Europe.2 Although commentators differ on definitions and application. it is worth pausing to consider the concept of “good governance” itself. and international organizations like the East Africa Community. the Nation proclaimed “Fit as a Fiddle Sultan Returns”. accountability and legitimacy”.(2004) “‘Governance’ as bridge between disciplines: Crossdisciplinary inspiration regarding shifts in governance and problems of governability..50. In the same paper. Unfortunately for the Nation.7-15 3 See among others Kersbergen. .V. and to culture and identity. enhancing the prospects for good governance in a development context has become a key goal for governments. Governance Discourse In 1989 the World Bank described the situation in Africa as a “crisis in governance. European Journal of Political Research. The World Bank defines governance as: .V. monitored and replaced. (ii) the capacity of the government to 2 Pagden. 143-171 2 . This includes (i) the process by which those in authority are selected. nongovernmental actors. (1998) “The genesis of ‘governance’ and enlightenment conceptions of the Cosmopolitan World Order”.” Since then. the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation had a news bulletin where it showed the Kamukunji grounds deserted and forlorn only with a cock scratching the ground for ants. A. They were referring to the Sultan of Zanzibar. to development. the term governance and increasingly good governance has permeated the development discourse like a colossus. K. Seemingly.3 Before embarking on a quest to understand the relationship between media and these good governance desiderata or discourse. International Social Science Journal.

“5 Good governance. World Bank Policy Research Working Paper No 4280 <http://papers. according to UNDP. transparency and public scrutiny. and efficient. processes that are participatory. civil society and private sector. Both UNDP and the World Bank include media among the institutions and mechanisms that can contribute to good governance. and that involve the private sector and civil society as well as the state. independent. and to hold to account those in positions of power and responsibility. It comprises the mechanisms and processes for citizens and groups to articulate their interests mediate their differences and exercise their legal rights and obligations . to participate in decisions that affect their lives. overlapping with and reinforcing other factors such as access to information and freedom of expression. It is the way a society organizes itself to make and implement decisions—achieving mutual understanding. policies and institutions by which a society manages its economic. Media can fulfill several critical tasks in the context of governance and reform.com/sol3/papers. facilitating informed electoral choices and 4 Kaufman. promoting accountability. as a civic forum for political debate. Role of the media It thus comes as no surprise that the potential role of the media in improving governance and accountability has become an area of interest to the international development community. This is reflected in a growing recognition.effectively manage its resources and implement sound policies. A free.cfm?abstract_id=999979 Visited 13 August 2010 5 UNDP (1997) Reconceptualising Governance . in the above definitions and elsewhere. accountable. to understand and be able to exercise their rights. and pluralistic media environment. the media has three key roles in contributing to democratization and good governance: as a watchdog over the powerful.. That media can in a general sense promote good governance is not a new idea.M. is about processes as well as outcomes.A.D. transparent.6 Good governance is also important for development. and considerable empirical evidence now points in that direction. According to Norris. 4 The United Nations Development Program (UNDP) emphasizes the articulation of people’s interests: “Governance is the system of values. political and social affairs through interactions within and among the state. Kraay. agreement and action. and (iii) the respect of citizens and the state for the institutions that govern economic and social interactions among them. in the context of international development. & Mastruzzi. . of the central importance of effective and inclusive communications systems. . New York 6 Ibid 3 . can have a profound influence on people’s opportunities to access information and services. Discussion paper 2. offering the means and incentives for the widest participation.ssrn.(2007) “Governance Matters VI: Governance Indicators for 1996-2006”.

Tanzania (Oct. The must act as a civic forum for genuine public debate. Rwanda (Aug 2010) and Burundi (June. This role is particularly important during election campaigns. If the channels of communication reflect the cultural and social pluralism and diversity of the society. 2010). in a fair and balanced manner. enhancing informed participation in the political processes. During campaigns. groups and candidates. recognized as a key constraint to development. a free. as fair access to the airwaves by opposition parties. and as an agenda-setter for policy makers. providing the indispensable conditions for informed choice. P (2006) The Role of the free press in promoting democratization. independent and pluralistic media provides citizens with information to compare and appraise the retrospective record. 2010). strengthening government responsiveness for instance to social problems and to exclusion. As pointed out below the media has a critical role to mediate between the state and citizens through facilitating debate about the major issues of the day and informing people about their leaders. prospective policies and leadership characteristics of parties and candidates. good governance and human development. An explication of the three roles suffices. What has been and should be the role of journalists in covering the elections? What should be the role of the EAC? I do not intend to answer this questions but one thing is clear EAC like the media must ensure the elections are free and fair. and facilitating and reinforcing more equitable and inclusive policies and actions. in the right circumstance. New York. UNESCO.actions. Kenya (2012).7 Though there has been little systematic evaluation. Media and Elections and the Civic Forum Role Each country in the East Africa Community will in the next three years have a general election. 7 Norris. a wealth of individual cases point to the role of the media in exposing corruption. They must castigate maneuverings and abuses of fundamental human rights especially freedom of expression and access to information. Uganda (2011). Media can achieve such an impact. then multiple interests and voices are heard in public deliberations. through their direct and indirect influence on a number of key parameters of governance: curbing corruption and improving accountability and transparency. They must castigate elections rigging and offer objective assessments of the process and results of elections and offer recommendations for improvement. 4 .

this can hinder good governance and even the democratic consolidation.However. rather than being open to a plurality of political viewpoints and parties during campaigns. the Reds and the Greens all continued with their campaigns each camp exuding confidence and chest thumbing how the 5th August would be a waterloo for the losers. The collective reporting of media houses denouncing violence and sectarian interests and the 24 hour coverage of the plebiscite brought a renewed understanding on the positive roles the media can play in entrenching democracy. This was seen by the Reds as not being objective especially when the media refused to be used as a platform for the naysayers and their prediction of doom. tallying and announcement of results by the Interim Independent Electoral Commission on the one hand and to run a parallel tallying and announcement of results on the other. The media in turn organised itself to do two things to cover the voting. but threats to media pluralism are also raised by over concentration (conglomerates) of private media ownership through oligopolies and multinational media corporations with media empires. good governance and genuine people’s participation in making such a critical decision like how they would want to be governed. the role of the media as a civic forum remain deeply flaws where major newspapers and television stations heavily owned by those who favour the governing or opposition (although it is rare for the latter) party hence their coverage both in amount of space and airtime and in tone are heavily tilted towards one party. It showed why a pluralistic media landscape operated and navigated by professional media practitioners is critical in deepening democracy and ensuring everyone’s views are heard and tolerated in the market place of ideas. they will have some say. The media highlighted arguments of both the competing sides and sometimes and fairly so castigated any camp that peddled lies to win votes. Nonetheless. Hundred of journalists were in Kenya to cover the campaign rallies for the two main camps-the Greens and the Reds. where the media fails to act as a civic forum. It is therefore critical that election observer teams assess the media landscape and operations during the elections before indicating that they were free and fair. On August 4. Kenyans went into a plebiscite to choose between a New Constitution for posterity or retention of the 47 year old Lancaster Constitution for an indefinite period. 5 . This was to ensure that just in case the IIEC went mute and emerged to announce results that could jolt Kenyans into spontaneous violence again as it happened in Dec 2007 when the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation exclusively announced the winner. State control and ownership of the media is a critical issue. By contrast.

Can the media have a role in promoting good governance when this relation is tenuous? Must the state and the media go to bed if good governance is to thrive? There may be no clear answers to these questions but an attempt to look at them critically would tell us two things. policy failures etc. For instance in Peru. that once the fundamental rights and freedoms of citizens are respected. by the broadcast over cable television of videos secretly taped by Peru’s head of security. corruption. First. These were followed. spectacularly. the media can check government and other agencies adherence to corporate governance standards to ensure transparency. One would ask was the media in this case promoting good governance or not? Supposing the IIEC made an attempt to announce a different result and the media reported it fervently would it have been seen to be unpatriotic? I ask this question because the relationship between the media and the state in this region has been uneasy and conflictual. accountability and scrutiny of the decisions and actions of those in power by highlighting scandals. P (2004) Mass Media-State Relation in Post-Colonial Kenya. Fujimori resigned immediately after the broadcast. efficiently and effectively all and sundry will be handy in acknowledging and vice versa. showing votes being bought with bribes. maladministration. Tanzania and Uganda leading to resignations in some cases. states and state authorities in this region have a critical responsibility and obligation to commit themselves to democratic governance and recognition of the legitimate role the media in promotion and protection of democracy and good governance. the military. Investigations exposed a pattern of wrongdoing and corruption involving death squads. The media has played a critical role in keeping the issue on the grand corruption scandals in Kenya. 8 Second. The media thus has a role to check on state abuse of power.This coverage of the IIEC and how it conducted the plebiscite also cleared indicated that when an agency of governance is on spotlight and it does its work professionally. in 2000. investigations critical of then-president Alberto Fujimori were first brought to light by the print media. 8 Wanyande. promoted and fulfilled the relationship between the state and the media is likely to be less conflicting and more complementary in ensuring good governance. Watchdogs of the Powerful/ Accountability In performing the watchdog role. and links between drug barons and political elites. Africa Media Review 6 .

a role that is particularly important for poor and marginalized groups. to have their views represented in mainstream media.the sum total of human development is increased. “voice” in this context means the capacity. New York: Anchor Books. and to develop their own media. including marginalized groups. we begin to understand human development as a measure of human freedom – free from war. and access to information and education . have a unique and particular role to play both in enhancing governance and accountability and in giving voice to poor and marginalized communities. radio and television. This provides opportunities for people to articulate their concerns and ideas to one another and to government. New freedoms. 9 By increasing freedom . The press is among the most important of these informational institutions. the very poor and illiterate people. a resurgent community radio movement.” Apart from their role in public accountability and transparency. .The broadcast media. depends on a number of factors. and to enhance the participation of people. . Broadcast media. in the process of governance. 1999. Particularly relevant is 9 Amartya Sen. sometimes agonizingly slow or nonexistent loosening of government control over information have all characterized this revolution. Further. and resources of diverse segments of society to signal government as to their needs and their perception of the quality of governance. Transparency. Stiglitz notes. the media can also play a critical part in the democratic processes at the heart of good governance. cultural and linguistic minorities. Amartya Sen has written that "freedom is the means and the end of development". a proliferation of channels and titles across all media. a dynamic interplay between old and new technologies and the sometimes rapid. Beyond governance. but to reinforce the overall capacity of society to constitute political discussion and debate. the media can also help to build the practices and culture of democracy and good governance within society as a whole.through elections. media are implicated in several dynamics that can combine and intersect to reinforce development and overall social well-being in different ways. open markets. such as freedom of information legislation and public information institutions “designed to ferret out information for the benefit of the public . are especially relevant and accessible to remote communities. as we argue later. 7 . Thus media have the potential not simply to influence government agendas. opportunity. a blossoming of public debate. Agenda setting role Media can raise awareness on social problems informing elected officials about public concerns and needs. In addition to traditional means of expression. But over time and in the right circumstances. Development as Freedom. poverty and repression and free to fulfill our human potential.

The challenge was to convey development “messages” on diverse subjects such as health awareness. Communication for social change is a process of public and private dialogue through which people determine who they are. Citizens need access to the means of communication and voice in order. has nevertheless shifted significantly over the years. It has at its heart the assumption that affected people understand their realities better than any “experts” from outside their society and that they can become the drivers of their own change. media’s deeper cultural role has been the subject of considerable interest and study. and cultural evolution and change. Thinking about how media can be used. In the early days. 8 . it favors the strengthening of an internal democratic process. or environmental responsibility. and social change. also.the role of media in the long tradition of communication for development. what they need. A number of studies in the field have drawn particular attention to the role that local and community-based media can play in empowering and enabling the participation of people and communities facing exclusion and marginalization. to discuss their conditions and aspirations. entertainment. The report concludes that the communication for social change model has two critical implications for participation in development that are related to issues of power and of identity: The democratization of communication cuts through the issue of power. and it puts people in control of the means and content of communication processes. Media have long been regarded by those in the field of communication for development as tools that can be deployed to promote developmental change. water management. agricultural practice. and what they want in order to improve their lives. disease prevention. Beyond the idea of disseminating information. and diversity. The Rockefeller Foundation report Making Waves: Stories of Participatory Communication for Social Change compiled 50 case studies and draws extensively on stories of community radio and television projects to provide a vivid account of people and communities appropriating media as means of empowerment. A second area of particular relevance is the increasingly important role that media play in the development and evolution of cultural forms. Within the community itself. to be able to speak with one another. and to what specific ends. many in the field understood media mainly as a top-down tool for the dissemination of information. and to develop the capacity for engagement and for action to improve access to services and rights under the law. but they were for the most part considered independently of media policy and regulation processes. it respects local cultures. Participatory approaches contribute to putting decision making into the hands of the people. The approach values local knowledge. and the growing influence that media have in value formation. identity. or even education. It also consolidates the capability of communities to confront their own ideas about development with development planners and technical staff.

therefore have important consequences for those seeking to strengthen good governance like the East African Community. free media matters. Communications scholar James Carey points to the “ritual” effect of participation. at the level of the individual. Policies which eradicate limits on free exchange of information and communication. and to ensuring that all cultures are respected equally and are represented in media. the role of communication media extends to influencing who we think we are and where we believe we fit in (or not) in our world: in other words.” creating a common sense of identity. association. whether due to state censorship as seen in the case of KBC above. but the maintenance of society in time. Thus. and contributing to a consensus on the type of nation that is being strived after. intimidation and harassment of journalists. independent and pluralistic media do not just have a role to play in good governance. a role for media has sometimes been articulated as that of “nation building. Such an approach is particularly relevant to media in countries with large communities of marginalized groups and indigenous peoples and where traditional structures and belief systems are undergoing rapid change and evolution. or even primarily. A cultural frame emphasizes also the contribution of diversity and a commitment to pluralism. not the act of imparting information but the representation of shared beliefs. The influence of the media does not remain only. Conclusion Free. both intrinsically and instrumentally for good governance to be entrenched. 9 . A ritual view is not directed towards the extension of messages in space. In developing countries. they are largely responsible for forming (not just informing) the concepts. . the media also play a major role in forming our cultural identity. fellowship and the possession of a common faith . or private media oligopolies. they are a critical constituent component of good governance.A high-level European Commission report concluded: The role of the media goes much further than simply providing information about events and issues in our societies or allowing citizens and groups to present their arguments and points of view: communication media also play a formative role in society. . That is. belief systems and even the languages—visual and symbolic as well as verbal— which citizens use to make sense of and interpret the world in which they live. Consequently.