ICC organised training for 15 Kenyan journalists from vernacular stations.
Vernacular radio stations are always in the news, often for negative reasons. While it is easier to lecture them about their failings, the more productive way of engagement would be to help them do a better job. At least that seems to be how the International Criminal Court looks at the issue.
Thus, between 25 June to July 2, the ICC conducted a training session at The Hague for 15 Kenyan journalists drawn from vernacular and community radio stations. The capacity building study visit was organized by the Outreach Programme of the ICC and targeted mainly morning talk show hosts, who are believed to be influential.
The aim of the training, according to Maria Kamara, ICC’s Field Outreach Coordinator in Kenya, was to provide accurate information to the journalists so they could have an open mind about the ICC and how it works. It was hoped that the journalists would use the information to enlighten their audiences and respective communities.
Besides visiting the main offices of the court and the chambers where court sessions take place, the journalists got an opportunity to visit the International Criminal Tribunal for former Yugoslavia (ICTY), which also sits at The Hague.
The broadcasters also met with the who-is-who at the ICC, from the new Chief Prosecutor Ms Fatou Bensouda to the officers of the detention centr and members of nongovernmental organizations (NGO’s) that support the work of the court in a myriad of ways.
Kenyan Judge Joyce Aluoch who is currently assigned to the Trial Division spoke to the journalists as well, reminding them of their noble role as disseminators of information.
“Early June, I was back home in Kenya and I went to see my mother. That was before the new prosecutor took over from Luis Moreno-Ocampo [June 15]. My mother said: ‘Oh, you are going to have a new prosecutor who is an African woman, and your other prosecutor is leaving.’ I was taken aback. I said: ‘I haven’t written to you about all this’. She said: ‘Oh no, I have my tool here’, pointing at her radio. ‘I get all my information from this radio’. That is enough to show you how powerful your messages are and how influential you are at that level because my mother is not a young person, she is fairly old. But still she trusts the information she gets from the radio.”
Judge Aluoch urged the journalists to “give the correct information, so that people like my mother who is old and mostly confined to the house, gets the right information. Knowledge is power.”
Rosemary Tollo, the programme manager for media training on the ICC at the International Commission of Jurists, pointed out that vernacular and community media is an important platform for the coverage of ICC-related stories because of the big populations it reaches, an opportunity she says that can be used negatively to fan hate and negative political mobilization.
“In the circumstances there is need for community radio anchors and journalists to understand the ICC system and procedures, explore opportunities for generating more sources and overcome communication barriers in accessing credible information,” Tollo said.
Maria Kamara said that Kenyan media has shown a lot of interest in covering the ICC since the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) initiated investigations into the post- election violence. However a gap existed, she said, in reporting from an objective and informed point of view.
The participants got to understand the roles and rights of the victims before the court. They also got insights on The Trust Fund for Victims. “Remember the victims,” the Spokesperson and Head of the Public Affairs Unit of the court, Fadi El Abdallah, urged.
Sabina Chege, a morning show host with Coro FM said the training was “eye opener,” and that the ICC is “a court process” which should be “ separated from politics.” Another morning show host, Evelyn Nyoike Waithira, of Inooro FM said: “The community radio broadcasters have the facts. They will be able to give their listeners a clear picture of the court. They now know that it is a court of justice.” ”There is a need for objective reporting especially in covering the Kenyan situation at the ICC. We need to give the people the right information, which is factual and objective,” said Victor Juma of Radio Namlolwe.
The Kenyan situation cases are before the trial chamber at the moment. It means they could get even more complex to report as the trial finally starts and each side, defense and prosecution, starts presenting its evidence.
By Kioko wa Kivandi.