Western diplomats warn Kenyans on fake news


US Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Twelve Western envoys have warned Kenyans against spreading alarmist and unconfirmed reports that are intended to raise political tensions, saying such messages have the potential to trigger deadly election violence.

Led by US Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec, the envoys noted on Thursday that the repeat presidential poll slated for October 17 had seen exponential outbreak of “fake news,” that was raising political temperatures. 

While acknowledging that the fake news menace is a global reality, the diplomats said its impact in Kenya is becoming increasingly prominent and negative.

“Everyone has the responsibility to reject lies and fabrications and to fact check.  We should all seek authoritative clarification before spreading fake news further,” they said in a statement on Thursday.

The envoys said whether traditional or new, media should play the watchdog role and strive to inform the public without inciting hate.

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Mid last month, Red Cross secretary-general Abbas Gullet said they had been receiving prank distress calls for the evacuation of injured people.

He said that upon interrogation of the callers, it was found that there was no evidence to support allegations that people were being killed in Mathare and Dandora.

Mr Gullet at the same time refuted media reports that the Red Cross had shared statistics on fatalities and injuries following the post-poll protests.

The National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) is currently investigating 250 people for posting hate messages on their social media platforms.

NCIC vice chairperson Irene Wanyoike a week ago said stern action would be taken against those found to have misused their Twitter, Facebook and WhatsApp accounts to stir up ethnic animosity.

The envoys’ statement comes at a time when political temperatures are at an all-time high following a fallout between the National Super Alliance and Jubilee Party on the October 17 fresh poll date set by the electoral commission.