Hope then, is a beacon. But after the 2007 elections, which sparked widespread violence over allegedly corrupt results, the road to change is not an easy one. Estimates of the number of people killed ranges from 500 to 5000, and hundreds of thousands of people were displaced. In just the past week I've met people who were forced to flee from their homes, taking only what they could carry, as tribes with an allegiance to a competing political party burned down their houses, and took to their neighbours with machetes. People here are preparing, and the media is no exception.
In New Zealand, we are bound by media ethics and laws, especially when it comes to election time. In journalism training, the first thing we are taught is to be impartial. To hold the truth in the highest regard.. and around elections, awareness steps up a notch. One party's coverage can't be favoured over another, politicians must always be given a right of reply... John Key can't host his own radio show just weeks out from polling.
Compare that then, to Kenya, where the media are having to be reminded of the importance of being objective, of refusing bribes, of maintaining professional relationships with the politicians they are questioning.
An independent national institution, the Media Council of Kenya, was only established after the election in 2007. Along with the Council, came a new code of conduct around ethical reporting, and just now a new code has been set up for journalists and media outlets covering elections. This code outlines the things journalists and the public in New Zealand assume is a given.. that "journalists must demonstrate integrity and act ethically and objectively".
Kenyan media commentator, Levi Obonyo, also head of the Media Council of Kenya, notes that "nearly every report on the last elections fingered the media for blame, some more than others". That, he says, means robust and impartial journalism is more important than ever, if the country is to come through the next elections peacefully.
As much as the media is criticised in New Zealand (and believe me, read through our newsroom email inbox on any given day and you'll get a fair idea!), it's important to remember we have a media industry that operates on a foundation of integrity. We have a system where the public can complain, and their complaints will be listened to. I believe in my profession, because I believe accurate and fair reporting forms the basis of a functioning democratic society. And this, we shouldn't take for granted.