Wednesday, January 09, 2008

THE RISE OF THE CITIZEN JOURNALIST

Dec: 27th, 2007: 13:35:15- Wuod wa ner wan rigging plan kendo tho mua. PNU ose keto mipango mar rigging to ini nyalo stop. Ani kode nyathiwa OBAMA.

Dec: 27th, 2007: 13:50:15- Mwathani arokugitara kumana na maundu mothe ma mucukani ta mirimu, aici, arogi, thuya, ndaa, ngunguni, na muno muno kiama kia ODM.

Dec: 30th, 2007: 14:33:20- the only way is the third way, the only guy whose results are not in doubt, akubalishwe apenye!

Jan 1st, 2008: 01:34:45- The ministry of Internal Security urges you to please desist from sending or forwarding any SMS that may cause public unrest. This may lead to your prosecution.

Jan 3rd, 2008: 02:33:59- In the interest of peace, we appeal to Kenyans to embrace each other in the spirit of patriotism, and exercise restraint to restore calm to our nation.

***

Were u @... Hukus is Harsh. That was the text message I received on new year's day. It was one of a string of truncated texts from Kakamega, Kisumu, Kibera; status reports from people too weighed with worry to bother with detail. It was a radical departure from the text messages of the previous two weeks: those voluble, half essays that moved from the witty, to the abrasive, to the repugnant.

On December 30th 2008, President Mwai Kibaki (was) declared (himself) the winner of the hotly contested presidential election. The aftermath: an escalation of violence, hooliganism and anarchy. This was not only the bloodiest General Election in Kenya's history, it was its most embarrassing. The results were delayed; the public grew restless, then the results were announced and the simmering discontent and allegations of rigging led to what various analysts have termed as a premeditated genocide.

The anxiety was heightened by the ban on live news broadcasts by the Minister for Internal Security. As witnessed earlier, in the 2005 Referendum, the General Election in 2007 had seen hundreds of private citizens, sitting at polling centres throughout the country, sending text messages of the vote tallies as they emerged; broadcasting, virally across the country on the cellular networks any irregularities and anomalies that they saw in their polling stations. All over the country, people had a general idea of the losers and winners from every constituency. And it was suddenly becoming evident that figures were being adjusted to the advantage of both sides. (Raila Odinga has conceded and named the constituencies in which he was added votes, Kibaki as always is not saying anything.)

Then the winner was announced. Chaos reigned. The Minister for Internal Security took over. He declared, while the country continued to wonder as to the whereabouts of the President, a virtual State of Emergency- ruling by decree. Text messages that may cause public unrest were outlawed. But no one told Kenyans what consisted a text message that may cause public unrest: questioning the final tally? Freedom of expression was thrust out of the window. The public was left to its own devices: the grapevine- a hub of half truths and conspiracy theories.

To bridge this information gap, many Kenyans went to the internet; to the blogs and mailing lists. The digital age is, after all the age of the citizen journalist where big media finds itself rivalled by its primary audience in content provision. The monopoly of 'truth' has shifted from the media house with the widest coverage to those private citizens reporting 'live from the scene of their lives.' Some of these stories are well told, a majority are amateurish and filled with conjecture but they are living stories, imbued with that touch of human reality that mainstream journalism has long lost in its pretentious quest for objectivity and angles. These stories continue to find new broadcast media, to travel across the world on their own steam; they are redefining not only the traditional media's approach to reporting but also the communication models of advocacy groups.

It remains unfortunate that this blogger has been quiet at the time his opinion mattered most. But the truth of the matter is that he has been involved in a larger behind the scene attempt by Kenyan writers to 'give a human face to the crisis that erupted in this country. These writers have also set out to They also set out to counter the prevailing view of Kenya, by the world, from the the jaundiced eye of the Foreign Press.

In the meantime, we promise to resume regular transmission from this space, our efforts towards moving house having been thwarted by forces beyond our control.

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Raila's personal greed and ambitions have sealed his fate.

His hands are covered with the blood of innocent people. Spirits of dead innocent children are crying out for justice. Starving widows are crying for their husbands. What crime did they commit?

Raila Odinga will never be president of Kenya. Never.

POTASH said...

Anon,

Much as I have no time for unsigned comments: I do not care whether Raila is greedy or not.. Please do not put words into my mouht

All I am saying is that elections were rigged and private citizens helped disseminate that information

Lisa said...

Hey Potash

The crisis made horrible reading/viewing in London via the 'jaundiced eye of the foreign press'. Best of luck with all that you're doing. Looking forward to updates and analysis on your blog...

Linda said...

Hi Potash,
Thanks for your pointing that sentence out in my blog. I rememered while writing it that I meant to check on its accuracy and fix it later but obviously I forgot before I posted. I'll remove it now.
However, if you return to http://eugenecho.wordpress.com/ you will see in my second entry that I tried to express the same sentiments about media bias and encourage others to look at Kenyan blogs for real information. Of all the blogs I had been following, I didn't run into yours or Kwani. I definately would have added it. And every day, I am learning more about my American bias in the way I see things and write about them; yet I don't want to go back and change or censor previous posts because they reflect who I was prior to gaining more wisdom, whether it was a day ago or years ago. It's my blog, my history of thoughts. The nature and danger of blogs is just that. We're all biased. The least any of us can do is try to decrease the amount of bias.

Autosmiler said...

Potash, I just saw that you did see my second post on "beauty & depravity" - thanks for commenting in it. I hope readers will see that and follow your link to your Kwani.