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The Media and Election-Related Violence in Africa: Lessons from Kenya

The media plays a critical role during elections, including by acting as a watchdog to ensure transparent political processes, and by offering a platform for candidates and voters to discuss important issues. Yet as election-related violence is becoming a serious challenge in many African countries, the media can also amplify or even incite national prejudices or tensions during contentious elections. In Kenya, local media organizations played a role in amplifying hate speech that helped fuel the 2007-2008 post-election violence, with over 1,100 deaths. The 2013 elections, however, saw a rise in “peace journalism,” the promulgation of state guidelines to avoid hate speech, and a recommitment to capacity-building among journalists. But key issues remain, and media organizations, the Kenyan government, and the international community can do more to prepare for the upcoming 2017 elections.

In this paired paper and policy brief, Southern Voices Network for Peacebuilding Sharon Anyango Odhiambo examines the role the media can play in amplifying hate speech and fueling election-related violence and how neutral and independent reporting can support more peaceful elections. She provides policy recommendations on how the Kenyan government, domestic media organizations, and international partners can best support the development of an independent, neutral, and professional media.

For more about the Southern Voices Network for Peacebuilding, click here.

About the Author

Ms. Sharon Anyango Odhiambo

Sharon Anyango Odhiambo

Former Southern Voices Network for Peacebuilding Scholar;
Communications and Outreach Officer, African Technology Policy Studies Network, Kenya
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Africa Program

The Africa Program works to address the most critical issues facing Africa and U.S.-Africa relations, build mutually beneficial U.S.-Africa relations, and enhance knowledge and understanding about Africa in the United States. The Program achieves its mission through in-depth research and analyses, public discussion, working groups, and briefings that bring together policymakers, practitioners, and subject matter experts to analyze and offer practical options for tackling key challenges in Africa and in U.S.-Africa relations.    Read more