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Cellphone and Internet access helps – and hinders – accurate reporting in Kenya

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Citizen news reports of major events have become more commonplace as cellphones and broad Internet access have made it easier to share eyewitness accounts. But in Kenya, where tensions and violence escalated after the disputed presidential elections of Dec. 27, 2007, their shortfalls have been exposed – particularly their ability to quickly spread incorrect information and inflammatory words.

Earlier this month, bloggers launched a website in an effort to track developments in Kenya, where more than 850 people have died in attacks and reprisals among different ethnic communities loyal to either President Mwai Kibaki or opposition leader Raila Odinga.

The group of bloggers, in Africa and the United States, set up the clickable online map at Ushahidi.com to counter what they suspected was official underestimation of the destruction and killings. Anyone can contribute a report to the site, from freelance journalists to ordinary Kenyans, and each report will be pinpointed on the map.

The blogger Ory Okolloh, who runs the blog Kenya Pundit from South Africa, told the BBC in 2005 that the primary motivation for many Kenyan bloggers was creating a broader array of media options for the public.

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