Media-owners in Kenya set up East Africa’s first presidential debate

Kenya’s Presidential Debates 2013, which will be the first to take place in the region, will incorporate the use of social media and SMS text messages, with eight television and 32 radio stations participating.

In addition to an official website, social networking sites such as Facebook and Twitter will be used to generate viewer involvement in the debates.

Viewers, including Kenyans in the Diaspora, can give their opinions, make statements and ask questions live through social media platforms, offering an equal stage to bring in the voice of Kenyans from across the world.

The chairman of the debate steering counsel Wachira Waruru, who is also the Group MD for Royal Media Services, said the debates will attract the biggest single audience the country has ever seen.

Radio and television stations in Kenya were partially blamed for the post-election violence that rocked the nation in December 2007 and early 2008. One of the four suspects, with a case at the International Criminal Court, is a radio presenter at Kass FM. The joint effort by Kenya’s media-owners is viewed as trying to rebuild a positive impression of the Kenyan media.

Sam Sholei, CEO of KTN TV station, said that they are in the process of setting up their official website and social media accounts, which will be channels for viewers to engage the presidential aspirants.

Linus Gitahi, CEO of Nation Media Group, commented that this will be a good opportunity for candidates to tell Kenyans what they will do to push this country forward.

The world is familiar with the US presidential debate, in which the latest installment pitting President Barrack Obama against Republican Senator Mitt Romney got the biggest mentions on Twitter yet. The social media recorded over 10 million tweets in 90 minutes, making the debate the most tweeted-about U.S. political event ever.

The power of social media helped millions participate in the debate even after the event and this will be a good opportunity to introduce positive and progressive discussion on social media on the approaching general elections.

Social media has also been on the radar for harbouring hate speech, with Kenya’s National Cohesion Team and the government warning that they will crack down on individuals perpetuating hate speech on various platforms.

The debates are scheduled for November 26, January 14 and February 11 2013.

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