Do vernacular stations fan violence?


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.



  1. In february, i attended a seminar in which someone gave a counter view on vernacular stations , i thought his arguments were valid. I took some notes and his main argument was as follows:

    1. not all vernaculars are inncent but neither are the english and swahuili radios and tv station,

    1. while not absolving all vernaculars he said that
    despite all the cliams about vernaculars fanning violence in 2007, not a single recording has ever been produced to prove it despite the fact that all radio broadcasts in kenya are stored digitally by various agencies in cluding steadman synovate.

    2. he felt that the hostility toward vernaculars is partly a result of our mental colonisation where he tend to fight our own heritage while wellcoming french, chinese and western radios to kenya. Foreign languages are clean and unifying while the languages of our mothers are primitave tools of war.

    3. Post election violence was sparked by events at KICC where all tvs were live listening to Kivuitu claiming results were being “cooked” , politicians almost coming to bloes on tv, etc

    4. there was already tenstion in the country and the whole media contributed to this via general coverage of a very bitter election campaign that took ethnic polarisation to unprecedented levels.

    — when KTN reported that APs were being ferried around the country to rig elections, several APs were killed. KTN is not vernacular

    –in other wordsm incitement is not the preserve of vernaculars.

    –there was ethnic violence in kenya in 1992 and 1997 where many were killed. There were no vernacular fm stations in kenya then, so who incited the people?

    –iits politicians , not stations that coz violence. Ask somalia, they all speak one language as do all their radios and where are they now.

    –now that spanish language tv and radios are all over the US, should we brace ourselves for violence in the US incited by spanish stations? No, spanish is a modern sophisticated language, not a primitave african vernacular where savages use radios to kill each other.

    -we must preserve languages like English, french and spanish which for centuries have been used to oppress and subjugate millions of africans. How dare these africans start vernacular fms which the oppressors cant understand. These vernaculars must be destroyed.

    _incitement to violence and war mongering must be left to modern languages like English, which were used to create terrifying phrases like Weapons of Mass Destruction as a result of which hundreds of thousands of innocent iraqis continue to die.

    How dare those africans start radios in those gutteral tounges of theirs. There must be a campain to ban those stations and the africans will, as always be very happy to destroy their own. At international conferences where-speaking in English, ofcource, they will demonize the languages of their forefathers for their savagery-and to a standing ovastion.

    Well, a bit over the top perhaps but worth noting. What we need in my view is strong national institutions, a departure from ethnic based politcs and realistic media regulation. isolating vernaculars for condemnation is, simplistic, I agree

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