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Media practitioners put on alert over fake news 

The  Media Council of Kenya (MCK) will from Friday this week roll-out a media literacy program aimed at building the capacity of practicing journalists in a move aimed at addressing the problem of fake news.

The first phase of the six months programme is also envisioned to equip the news consumers with necessary information that will help them discern fake news from genuine reportage.

The programme will target learning institutions, faith-based organisations and media houses across the country.

While addressing journalists in Kisumu on Thursday, MCK  Chief Executive Officer (CEO), David Omwoyo said that fake news was a new and rapidly emerging issue in various newsrooms, warning that if not speedily addressed will spiral out of control and taint the once touted media profession.

Omwoyo observed that social media and online based news frontiers were the hardest hit by the menace as they harboured thousands of writers and bloggers practicing irresponsible journalism with the protection of anonymity.

The mainstream media, Omwoyo also noted has consistently suffered a similar brunt with the aim of getting news scoops, adding that it was imperative for journalists to launch their profession on a transformative path by fostering extensive research and intensive verification of sources.

News consumers, Omwoyo stated, needed to be wary of parody social media accounts, revealing that they have largely infiltrated the online platform, hence compromising the credibility of news.

Omwoyo disclosed that the Office of Director of Public Prosecution (ODPP) was currently prosecuting 82 fake news on election related cases presented to them by the MCK.

According to a survey conducted by Portland Communication Consultancy and Goepoll (a mobile survey platform), 90% of Kenyans saw and heard false news during the just concluded electioneering period with 87% reporting instances of deliberately fake or false news.

Omwoyo further put a red alert on journalists out in the field practicing journalism without duly being accredited by the MCK, warning that the council will take punitive action against them.

In a bid to address the surging crisis, Omwoyo stated that the council will be publishing monthly editions of fake news perpetuators, adding that an updated version of Code of Conduct of Journalists is set to be released with Acts dealing with fake news.

To identify fake news accounts, John Oywa, veteran journalist said editors, reporters and readers should look out for spelling mistakes, grammatical errors, lack of authoritative sources, and accuracy issues in write-ups to avoid feeding on substandard information.

He nonetheless admonished editors and media owners to be considerate while pushing writers to follow through news leads, especially those sourced online as this positioned them on a collision course with fake news.

By  Joyce  Goro/Roberto  Muyela/George  Kaiga

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