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Local media condemned for biased reporting

15 April 2014, 14:40 Samuel Kisika

Nairobi - Human Rights groups have condemned local media for deviating from ethical journalism of maintaining objectivity in reporting and propagating government propaganda to blind the public.

Al-Amin Kimathi, a human rights activist and former journalist, alleged that over 6 000 people have been arrested and mistreated by security officers yet local media have not exposed such atrocities.

"Muslims, Somalis of Kenyan descent and Somali refugees are being unfairly targeted by security forces yet if you read some publications in the country you almost wouldn't know anything untoward was happening at all. In other media, Muslims and Somalis are stigmatized," said Kimathi.  

He urged the local media to dig deeper to get the truth on how the government is carrying out the ongoing security operation other than relying on exaggerated government press briefings.

"Government statements about the attacks and its response seem to be taken at face value. Media balance, accuracy and integrity is crucial at a time like this when the press has such a crucial role to play in shaping the public mood, calming passions and holding the government to account," stated Kimathi.

The activist said that the government's decision to target Muslims and Somalis in the Usalama operation is against human rights provisions since every ethnic group has to be treated fairly without discrimination.

"It raises questions to see the government deporting citizens of Somali origin you have grown up with, schooled and worked together on claims that they are not Kenyan because they do not speak Kiswahili fluently," said the activist.

Ben Rawlence, a human rights writer working on a book about the youth of Dadaab refugee camp, said that the media's misunderstanding of the camp as a hot bed of terror and extremism based on government's assumption is far from its true picture.

"In fact, it is more an engine of moderation than an engine of radicalization, full of people who would like to work with Kenya to see peace in Somalia, if only the GoK would listen," said Rawlence.

He challenged Kenyans to see Dadaab as the country's fourth largest city in population and not a place of terror.

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