A COMPARATIVE STUDY ON MEDIA PRIMING AND LOCAL OPINION LEADERS ON SABAOT LAND CONFLICT IN MT. ELGON

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ABSTRACT
This study explored how media reported the conflict in Mt. Elgon and whether it represented the
beliefs of Mt. Elgon residents. Media and conflict have been linked together and the media’s
reporting has an impact on conflict direction. Mt. Elgon conflict was never isolation and the
media played its part. However, recent reports have indicated that the militia could be
regrouping, a sign that the conflict never ended and might be looming in the near future. The
study looked at how the media primed the conflict and whether it played its roles in conflict
situation. It further compared media reports and the opinions of the local residents. A content
analysis of 130 newspapers was conducted sampled from two major dailies in Kenya: The
Standard and the Daily Nation, between 2007 and 2008. Key informant interviews were also
done to be able to complement the content analysis and establish what the beliefs and opinions of
the local leaders is of this conflict and the media reports. The results show that the media
remained objective and not biased in reporting the Mt. Elgon land conflict. The media gave very
little prominence to the conflict in Mt. Elgon with scanty reports and poorly positioned accounts
of this conflict. The media faced one outstanding challenge of not being able to access the area of
conflict and had to rely on a few people on the information on conflict situation as gathered from
the interviews. Therefore, the media did not substantively play its roles in agenda setting,
watchdog, and informing the public. Local leaders have come out to state that the media’s
reporting of this conflict was contrary to what was happening on the ground. They have also said
that the media did not give this conflict the necessary attention while appreciating that in deed it
was very tough for the media to penetrate the conflict area.

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