When a Spade is a Long-Handled Digging Implement

Reporters Without Borders has reopened the debate on how best to cover the issue of tribe and tribalism during Kenya’s election violence. Its verdict on the Kenyan media is bizarrely damning:

…the Kenyan media failed in its duty to report fully on the political crisis and violence that followed last 27 December’s presidential election because it was too busy trying to “calm passions and encourage reconciliation,” a joint fact-finding mission by Reporters Without Borders, International Media Support and Article 19 said today.

Michela Wrong, writing in the New Statesman a couple of weeks ago, summed up the absurdity of some of the reporting.

Sometimes, the outcome is simply bizarre. When the Nation newspaper ran a vox pop in January, one entry was meant to capture vividly the predicament of a 15-year-old girl of mixed parentage. “My mother is from [one of the tribes that had a presidential candidate]”, Faith was quoted as saying, “but my father is a [member of the other tribe that had a presidential candidate].” How’s that for gritty realism?

And she went on to point out that it is impossible to solve a problem by refusing to acknowledge it exists. But it’s a difficult call when it’s your own country going up in smoke and anything that appears in the papers could enflame passions further.