The Mass Media and Social Cohesion: Mapping the Margin for Sustainable Social Development in Kenya

Felicity Atieno Okoth


Sustainable development as a concept, over decades has cast its lens on economic and ecological sustainability with little attention given to the social aspect of it, particularly the role of social development in the building of stable, resilient and ultimately economically sustainable communities. Such a realization is hinged on social cohesion which equivocally undergirds the formation of stable communities. Kenya grapples with ethno-political animosities which have destabilized the country socially and economically in the past and still a looming threat. Taking the form of a theoretical discussion, this paper demystifies social cohesion as a concept and shines the spotlight on the relationship between the ethno politics, the mass media and consequently social cohesion. Four major types of mass media influence are looked at to this effect. They are: the media's role in defining the political atmosphere in which public discussions take place, the mass media’s role in defining the nature of debates within it, the mass media’s role in influencing the strategy and behavior of political and opinion leaders in ethnic tense situations and finally their role in raising and lowering public legitimacy of the a fore leaders. I argue that despite being limited by a set of news values, the Kenyan media can promote social cohesion by presenting the audience with balanced and non-partisan media coverage. Individual agency is however stressed as it is only through genuine interest of ‘the other’ that social cohesion and ultimately social sustainable development can be reached.

Keywords: Social Cohesion, Mass Media, Sustainable Development

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ISSN (Paper)2224-3267 ISSN (Online)2224-3275

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