Question: If I’ve a complaint, should I complain to the public editor (PE), the Complaints Commission of the Media Council of Kenya, or go to court?
Answer: It depends on what remedy you’re seeking, and how quickly. The PE addresses complaints expeditiously and facilitates quick remedies where justified. The PE response time is within 48 hours for uncomplicated cases. The other bodies can take months if not years to resolve a complaint.
What kind of remedies can one expect?
It depends on the nature and merits of the complaint. If the complaint is about false, inaccurate, or biased reporting, the PE can facilitate a correction, apology or right of reply.
What kind of complaints does the PE handle?
Complaints about editorial matters, that is, anything published — or should have been published — in NMG print or broadcast platforms.
The PE does not deal with non-editorial matters unless they pertain to the conduct of its journalists. Management matters such as business transactions, recruitment of staff and interns are outside his purview.
Local or national issues such as poor roads, corruption, and pollution, or complaints about other media, are also outside his ambit. The PE is an ombudsman for NMG, not for the nation.
Are there editorial complaints the PE cannot deal with?
Yes, complaints that lack specifics. For example, this complaint from a reader in Garissa: “Did you really confirm what you wrote regarding the governor? I am really disappointed with your lies. These are some of the signs of a hypocrite. Do you know the wrong you have done in front of God? I hope you will apologise to the governor.” There is nothing in this complaint, except condemnation, for the PE to lay his hands on.
What is the value of the PE? Who pays him?
Accountability and transparency. The PE is an internal critic who is separate from the Editorial. His job is to connect readers, their concerns, and grievances, to the Editorial.
He helps to open Editorial eyes and ears when they are closed to readers. The NMG pays the PE to ensure editorial transparency and accountability to the public.
Does the PE have enforcement powers?
No. He is a fellow traveller with readers. He has no powers to direct editors and journalists. Often, he is a lone voice in the wilderness. He exerts influence only by taking the moral high ground.
Can the PE publish my article or give me a regular column?
No, the PE is an ombudsman, not an editor as such, and does not handle contributions to be published outside this page.
Can the PE use his influence to help me to get my article published?
No, but if you think you have been unfairly treated he can look into your complaint.
Can the PE review, edit and assess the suitability of my articles for publication?
No, the PE does not act as a literary agent or mentor for individuals.
I’m a final-year university student requesting for your support so as to settle my school fees. I will not sit for my final exams without having settled the school fees. I include details of my account number.
It’s outside the mandate of the PE to involve himself in mobilising funds for the needy including students. The role of the PE is simply that of a critic.