Research report: What was the role of the debate programme Sema Kenya in the 2013 Kenyan election?


This briefing paper is a summary of findings from BBC Media Action research. It seeks to identify the extent to which the national TV and radio debate programme Sema Kenya (Kenya Speaks), part of BBC Media Action’s governance work in Kenya, supported accountability, peace and inclusion at the time of the 2013 Kenya election.

Publication date: March 2014

Authors: Angela Muriithi and Georgina Page

Overview: The paper explores these issues using qualitative data from two samples: a panel of 17 media and governance experts, and a broad cross-section of Sema Kenya's TV and radio audience. In addition, quantitative data from a nationally representative survey of 3,000 Kenyan adults provides overall audience perceptions of the role of the media during the Kenya election as well as attitudes towardsSema Kenya among regular viewers and listeners.

Findings include:

• After being complicit in post-election violence in 2007, Kenyan media swung to the other extreme in 2013 when it self-censored to avoid instigating violence.

• In this environment, Sema Kenya provided the public with constructive, moderated, audience-driven discussion and, arguably, more detailed information than other media sources.

• By providing a platform for dialogue, where citizens were visibly empowered to question their leaders, the programme also made a contribution to supporting individuals to hold government officials to account.