Akeno Ewas Maraka and her children search for wild fruits under a tree in Loberot, Turkana South, in northwest Kenya, where an estimated one million people been affected by the drought, which hit the county in 2017. Photo: National Council of Churches of Kenya/ACT Alliance
An average of 80,000 people are displaced from their homes each year in Kenya, but local media hardly pay attention to their plight, says a WACC-supported media monitoring study.
The study also says that climate change or climate-related disasters such as floods and droughts have replaced inter-ethnic conflicts as the main reason why people flee. Based on this finding, the study recommends a “redefinition” of who an IDP is to media and the general public.
About 90% of the stories about internally displaced persons (IDPs) by Kenyan media were hardly prominent, most of them fillers inside or on the back pages of newspapers, says a project report prepared by WACC Africa, jointly coordinated by the All Africa Conference of Church.
“We can infer that the paucity of features and investigative pieces indicate the failure of Kenyan media to follow up or give movement to IDP issues,” says the report. “No meaningful discussions can be generated by such miniscule and obscure content.”
IDPs were hardly visible in the news, the study says, noting that only 20.9% featured them as subjects or sources.
The study also says that corruption and mismanagement of funds for resettlement were among the major topics of news stories, and while these warranted “intense, continuous focus,” there were no in-depth investigations conducted about them.
Other topics that were also not fully reported on included the living conditions, health, and security of IDPs, as well as concerns around discrimination, food supply distribution and basic necessities.
IDP-related stories also showed a gender imbalance, with more male being cited as sources and chosen as subjects, the study notes.
The study examined the portrayal and reportage of IDPs in the nation’s major newspapers – The Daily Nation, The Standard, and The Star – as well news broadcasts from Kenya Television Network and Citizen Television Station, between June to August 2018.
The study, which was conducted alongside similar studies in Nigeria and the Democratic Republic of Congo, followed the methodology of WACC’s Global Media Monitoring Project. The Nigerian study showed similar results. It reported that Nigerian media pay “little attention to the real issues” affecting IDPs and often ignore their voices.
Project organizers express the hope that in identifying gaps in reportage, media in Kenya will pay attention and provide more in-depth reporting on IDPs. They are also hoping that the report will galvanize support for IDPs and encourage governments and civil society to improve services to IDPs and refugees in Africa.
The media monitoring study also received support from Waldensian Church’s Otto Per Mille and Bread for the World.