Media regulation and the role of vernacular stations in conflict situations was brought into sharp focus as media practitioners examined their role in conflict situations.

Joseph Odindo, Nation Media Group editorial director narrated how various vernacular stations were indicted for fanning flames of violence during the post election violence in Kenya.

“How do you deal with the culture of hate speech? Vernacular radio stations reach the grassroots and are well placed, potent ways of mobilizing the public but what happens when they fan flames?” posed Odindo.

He also explored options such as regulation and banning of such stations but was quick to add that this is not the sole solution. He argued that participants should find a way to inoculate the insect without resulting to drastic measures such as banning.

During the height of the violence in Kenya, Odindo was torn between using blood spattered pictures and showing the reality to the public and pushing them not to live in ignorance.

Mathatha Tsedu, one of South Africa’s leading editors spoke about South African media’s treatment of Nigerians where Nigerians arrested with crime related issues make headlines yet other criminal activity in the country does not always make headlines.

“In South Africa, if a Nigerian is arrested with 2 grammes of cocaine, the story makes headlines, but if its South African the story is not a headline; there is a level of targeting foreigners,” said Tsedu.

During the xenophobic attacks in South Africa, Tsedu said the Daily Sun characterized the attacks as “alien attacks” and the paper was considered to have used derogatory statements and issues were raised with ombudsman.

In the afternoon session, journalists tackled the issue of press freedom, whether having leaders who are holding on to power means that the media in that country is muzzled.