“the media as an enabler of justice: Responsible Court reporting on election disputes”. PHOTO. / JUDICIARY

Court reporters together with Judicial officers, Kenya Editors’Guild and International Foundation for Electoral Systems during a training on how to report on election petitions within Nairobi County Kenya. PHOTO / JUDICIARY


By Rosalia Omungo (Chief Executive Officer, Kenya Editors’ Guild)

There are many sectors of specialization

in journalism industry, investigative

reporting, feature writing, crime

reporting, parliamentary reporting and

general reporting.

All these are important. But one of the

areas that call for precision in

journalism is Court reporting.

It is one of the specialized sectors of

reporting anywhere in the world and it

calls for continued training for

journalists so that they can understand

the technical terms and terminologies to

promote accuracy, break down legal

terminologies to readers, viewers and

listeners and help avoid legal

implications and confusion.

However, despite the demands of court

reporting, training institutions do not

offer courses on reporting from the


Most of the focus is on media law and

media ethics that often ignore the

pragmatics of court reporting.

Yet, the past decade has witnessed

substantive changes in the country’s

Constitution and other laws that guide

the courts and how journalists may

report on them.

The questions that we must ask are

these: Are journalists up to speed

with these rapid changes? Are they well

equipped to process these new legal

requirements for their audiences?

Most newsrooms in Kenya have in the past

built teams around experienced court

reporters, but as journalists move to

other areas, get promoted or leave the

newsroom, the institutional knowledge on

court reporting is diminished.

Younger reporters who lack experience

have often been caught in the web of

reporting out of context, in contempt of

court and sometimes false reporting.

Capacity building in this area, as in

deed it has been in other areas of

specialized reporting, has remained a

perennial challenge. And as media houses

engage in cost-cutting, some of these

areas have found themselves becoming

victims of these stringent measures that

many media houses have been adopting of


We have to admit that this is a

monumental lacuna that must be


Expectedly this has sometimes caused

challenges and frictions between the

Judiciary and the media and journalists.

Consequently, it has also led to

exposure to law suits and action against

media houses and journalists leading to

sometimes huge monetary damages and

sanctions against media houses.

In 2020, Kenya Editors’ Guild published

a Guidelines manual for Court Reporting

with a view to curing this lapse. It was

important to undertake the study in

order to cater for this new crop of

journalists who are constantly joining

the newsroom and taking up court

reporting as a beat without the

requisite training that this beat

is required of.

During a meeting officiated by Justice

William Ouko, editors recognized this

need and called for a linkage between

the Judiciary training and journalists

on possibilities of collaboration.

Kenya Editors’ Guild exists to promote

professionalism and excellence in


As gatekeepers, we are interested in

factual reporting on matters of public


KEG is focused on enhancing professional

standards in media,developing capacity

and providing opportunities for

reporters to excel in their reportage

and to serve their readers, listeners

and viewers from a perspective of


It is said that, even within the worst

of our stories, we can find a strange

kernel of hope, or if not hope, at least

a strand leading us there. It is also

true that we find in the oddest and most

trying circumstances, the most tender

realities that make us stronger, more

professional and more discerning.

As journalists, every electoral period

gets us there. It challenges us, it

places enormous burdens on our shoulders

but it also baptizes us, if we are brave

enough to bare the challenge, into

become better people, better

professionals and to have that

exhilarating feeling that we served our

nation right.

By its mandate to promote

professionalism and excellence in

Journalism, Kenya Editors’ Guild is,

therefore, happy to partner with the

Judiciary Academy, the Court Reporters

Association and the International

Foundation for Electoral Systems (IFES)

to execute this training.Indeed it began

with a Press Club

luncheon in February 2022, graced by the

Chief Justice Martha Koome, who gave

the go-ahead for the partnership.We are

grateful that through this partnership,

the training will add value and

critical knowledge for court reporters

in order to enhance better understanding

and wholes consumption of legal and

court matters to our audiences.

As we get to the climax of the season of

contested spaces, with the casting of

the ballot on Tuesday August 9, I urge

all journalists to seek to report

accurately on the elections. In this day

and age of fake news, verification of

information acts as a second layer of

defense not only to avoid legal

implications but also to help our

audiences to better understanding and

process legal matters. Journalists must

seek to verify all information before

they convey it for public consumption

not just because they owe it to the

public to give accurate information but

also because it is one of the key tenets

of journalistic professionalism.

Journalists must rise above the mist of

mediocrity, populism and bias into the

light of facts, reliability and

dependability. They owe it to their

audiences who always trust them to

convey the reality of what is happening

in the country but who, unfortunately,

sometimes find that the journalists they

trust often fall short of

this expectation.

As journalists we must be bold,truthful

and trustworthy where facts are

concerned. And we must resist being

what, Spiro Agnew, the 39th vice

president of the United States of

America called “pussyfooters, vicars of

vacillation and the hopeless, hysterical

hypochondriacs of history.”

“Media as an Enabler of Justice:

Responsible Court Reporting on Election

Disputes” exemplifies what journalists

must do everyday, both as a professional

requirement and as a duty of care. The

theme explains that if we do not report

correctly, we are doing injustice to

society and, ipso facto, losing the

trust of our readers and audiences.

Article 34 and 35 of the constitution

guarantee freedom of the media and

access to information,but these freedoms

are not absolute.They must be exercised

with limitations.

As we approach the General Elections, it

cannot be lost on us that contested

spaces may yield petitions in one seat

or another. Expectedly, this will be a

time of excitement for some and

disappointment for others. Journalists

must stand in the gap, as mediators, as

consolers as purveyors of correct

information and as the balm for wounded

souls, hopes and dreams.

As journalists, we must remember that in

the dark night of the soul, such as we

most probably will be experiencing next

week, and the days thereafter depending

on where our political aspirations are

domiciled, there is no map, there is

only a flickering luminescence of our

souls to light the way. We, the

journalists hold this torch to

illuminate, for the public, the path to

a greater understanding of issues.

One of the most celebrated journalists

in Britain, Charlotte Higgins, once

remarked: There is an alchemy whereby

you take factual information, which has

some connection, umbilical or

tangential, to public service and you

make it entertaining. How do you make it

entertaining (and digestible)? You

inject humanity and narrative.”We must,

as journalists, inject humanity and

narrative in our reporting. This is our

calling. This must be our narrative!

We hope that the training received will

allow reporters to write stories in a

manner that not only enables justice to

all parties but also enlightens in an

unequivocal, unambiguous and completely

clinical way the public that relies

almost wholly on the media to relay

correct factual and verifiable

information to them.Continuous training

to promote quality accurate and ethical

reporting in the courts should be

enabled for all journalists not just

during electoral periods but as an

everyday practice. Kenya Editors’ Guild

is happy to continue this partnership

post-election. It is our

hope that eventually we will come up

with short courses on legal issues which

will enable court reporters and even

editors report effectively in the

courts. It should not begin or end with

this electoral period.It must be a

continuous process. And we must remember

that in truth journalism has, to a

greater or lesser degree, been a battle

field that can be grim and dark and

strewn with human wreckage especially

during electoral periods. We, as

journalists, must be the sacramental

unction that gives hope to the people,

the anchor in the aftermath of broken

hopes, the faith in the hearts of the

victors but also the hope in the losers

who may feel that the election did not

serve them right but whom, in looking up

to the national media, feel that they

have a new day to hope for and a country

to live in after the election. This

must be our hope, this must be our

aspiration, and this must be what our

children and the young generation must

live for.

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