I read with shock and disbelief reports in the Telegraph that Kenyan vernacular radio stations belonging to Kikuyus, Luos and kalenjins have started having call-ins with the kind of language that helped stoke the fires of the Rwandan genocide. The report talked of a radio station referring to members of another ethnic group as “weeds” that “must be uprooted.” This is most alarming, especially in the wake of the fresh retaliatory violence that has brought life in most of the major urban centres in the Rift Valley province to a standstill.
The government should concentrate its efforts on the gutter press to ensure that this bad habit does not become acceptable to anyone, regardless of their ethnicity. Indeed it is the gutter press, be they the funny looking ten shilling papers or vernacular stations that are more likely to cause chaos than the more respectable establishments like KTN and NTV. I feel like instead of focusing so much on the mainstream media and curtailing their rights to have live broadcasts, the government should have instead moved swiftly to stop any of the vernacular radio stations or newspapers from airing or publishing anything that might be inflammatory. Indeed if this goes on the government should suspend the licenses of all vernacular stations until things calm down. We saw the power of the radio in Rwanda and so we should not sit back and watch as Kenya goes down that same path.
Freedom of speech is important. But only when the freedom is exercised without infringing on other people’s rights. Radio stations that allow the airing of any inflammatory comments should be shut down and the editors be given a generous jail sentence because anyone who uses the mass media to encourage murder should share the responsibility with the murderers if indeed they manage to persuade Kenyans to go out and kill their fellow countrymen.
This new development is most alarming especially after the recent counter-attacks in Naivasha and Nakuru seemed to have been pre-planned and also as news emerged that the earlier attacks in the Rift Valley were pre-planned as well.