Reporting on renewable energy in Kenya is far from adequate

April 27, 2017

Kenya has approximately 139 radio stations, 60 publications – four of which are daily newspapers – and about 2 million online news consumers. Despite having a vibrant media, coverage of issues such as renewable energy and development work in general remains low as politics and entertainment are allocated much of the space. It is in this regard that Hivos and the Media Council of Kenya held a sensitisation session on April 25 with the aim of putting issues around energy on the media’s agenda.

Among the topics covered in this training were the legal and regulatory environment for energy in Kenya, Kenya’s green growth agenda, upcoming developments in the renewable energy sector, media coverage of renewables and emerging issues in the media today.

“Media debate on clean and renewable energy is seldom, by accident and unbalanced,” noted Dr. George Gathigi, a Journalism lecturer at the University of Nairobi and one of trainers at the session.

Dr Gathigi also pointed out that when the government is seen to be pushing for renewable energy, there tends to be positive coverage.

The lecturer also noted that there has been a lot of coverage of energy (especially solar), but often renewable energy is associated with negative coverage. For example, the high costs of purchasing and installing solar technology is generally what makes it into the news, not the benefits.

Victor Bwire, Assistant Director at Media Council, observed that journalists also tend to interview people who are readily available for comment and not necessarily experts in the field. “The people with the information are not being interviewed. What we see is that journalists interview people who are conveniently available to discuss whatever matter is at hand,” noted Mr Bwire.

As a way forward, the journalists suggested that they want to feel part of the process when non-profits are pushing their agendas. “Don’t look at journalists as service providers; let it be a real partnership,” noted one of the participants.

The journalists suggested that there is need for capacity building for journalists on renewables, as the majority are not conversant with these issues, and also asked for renewable energy practioners to share regular updates on the sector with journalists.