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Monday, 24 May 2010


The disclosure of the identity of a minor involved in a court case in the United Kingdom is expressly forbidden. Is it too much to expect the same ethical considerations, when the UK media is covering similar legal issues from elsewhere in the world?

Almost inevitably it seems, that would depend on the definition of elsewhere. If it is from a fellow industrialized country, the same standards apply but if we are talking about an African country, then the same ethical standards need not apply.

A very emotive episode of Dispatches, on Channel 4, disturbingly titled, 'The Lost Girls of South Africa, is a good case in point.

Whereas the producers did a super job in highlighting the plight of young girls at risk of sexual assault by close relatives and neighbours, the depiction of the victims was utterly deplorable.

It mattered not that the girls, aged between 11 and 13 were minors in every sense. Subjecting them to having to describe how they were sexually molested on camera, was humiliatingly inhuman, cruel and in very bad taste.

But the obsession of capturing the little ones crying on tape seemed to have gotten the better of the producers. And so the already traumatized souls had to endure being filmed almost around the clock, as they struggled to deal with their physical, psychological, social and emotional scarring.

UK media unethical misadventure in  South Africa 

The crowning low-point in the story, in my opinion, had to do with the absolute discarding of the girls' absolute right to privacy. No attempt is made to conceal their identity.

Their interviews include very detailed close-ups and for even one shocking scene, you get to see one sexually abused girl getting the results of her HIV test, in the company of her mother.

Is it because of the debilitating poverty or inability to enforce written down laws in many African countries that makes them so vulnerable to all manner of attacks by the western media?

And one cannot also help but question the motive behind the timing of this particular Dispatches. A couple of weeks prior to South Africa hosting the greatest sporting spectacle on earth, football's World Cup. Another stab in the back to stem Africa's progress?

Yes the victims need all the help they can get and the exposure of the weak judicial system in South Africa will go a long way in piling pressure on the government there to implement mush needed reforms.

But the survivors of the harrowing ordeals still deserve and should be accorded all their inalienable rights as human beings.

Sunday, 23 May 2010


                                     Londons's Twickenham Stadium, Copyright Agachiri 2010

They came from all over the United Kingdom, European capitals and Africa. Right from the train stations in central London to the Twickenham Stadium in the South West, an unusually boisterous foreign legion of fans proudly announced its presence. The Kenyan rugby team was in town.

The UK capital was hosting another round of the IRB Sevens, which to many Kenyans in the Diaspora meant an unmissable opportunity to let free their patriotism spirit and also set into motion partying plans that had been planned a year or so in advance.

With temperatures soaring well above 20 degrees, it was also an opportunity for the ladies to unleash their outer beauty and let's just say there was a very thin line between casual sexy and extremely provocative, when it came to the day's attires.

                                                                              Kenyan merchandise on sale, Copyright Agachiri 2010

But the one dominant item of clothing was the T-shirt with colours of the Kenyan flag. So popular were the Kenyan team kit that one could easily think the event was being hosted in the East African country.

And those with a business acumen did not fail to grab this opportunity as well, with some setting up entire stands dealing with Kenyan merchandise.

Any Kenyan could also easily discern there was an usually high number of people conversing in Kiswahili, in it's many shades of manifestation. And the UK being a major market for tourists to Kenya, some of the locals heartily joined in occasionally, with their routine, 'Jambo, jambo bwana.'

Kenyan fans takeover of Twickenham

Inside the 82,000 capacity seats Twickenham Stadium, the upper tiers were remarkably empty but on the lower stands, specifically in the South, things were drastically different. This happens to be the section reserved for Kenyan fans and they all flocked there.

Kenyans cheer their rugby team, Copyright Agachiri 2010

It was as if a powerful magnet was drawing the Kenyans together. It no longer mattered who was seating on whose seat and the match stewards had to give up trying to clear the aisles, which were swarming with Kenyan fans eager to cheer their team.

Other than the rugby matches, the Kenyan fans section was a spectacle to behold. So many Kenyan flags were flying about and the singing and chanting was a direct ticket to a nostalgic Kenyan wonderland. The  outpouring of the love for their country by the fans simply stood out and was really admirable.

It was a reunion of Kenyans abroad like I had never before witnessed before in my many travails across different countries in the world. This was spectacularly special and a firm indication that Kenyans are indeed proud of their country.
                                    Sophie Ikenye at Twickenham, Copyright Agachiri 2010

It perhaps didn't matter that the Kenyan team outclassed Portugal, or narrowly lost to Wales or even succumbed from a late rally by New Zealand that earned them a draw against the resilient Kenyan rugby sevens side.

All the Kenyan fans were true winners in my eyes. They won me over with their sense of togetherness in a foreign country. I call it the twin-win at Twickenham.

Sunday, 16 May 2010


Kenyans go to the poll in August with a chance to either usher in a new Constitution or reject the proposed one, in the country's second ever referendum. Should the Kenyan media attempt to be neutral or this time around just openly declare their support for or against the draft?

The angel you don't know has never been a better choice compared to the devil you know, and that apparently, is what has been bedeviling the local media industry.

Public perception has often been that this and that media house supports the government's position and that and that are against it.

And this labeling, whether accurate or fallacious is despite the said media houses insisting they are non-partisan and accommodative of all interested parties and divergent views.

Almost immediately after the Media Owners Association pledged to adhere to fair reporting of both sides, ahead of the constitution referendum in Kenya, critics expressed their distrust of this promise. So would it be preferable to openly side with either side?

Where media take sides on major issues

In more advanced economies and democracies, media establishments have historically never shied from siding with a particular viewpoint. In the recently concluded UK elections, some newspapers even went as far as running smear campaigns against certain parties or candidates.

The public and the concerned authorities seemingly are not bothered by the fact that this amounts to unbalanced reporting and denial of fair comment tenets. And probably due to the fact that their position had been stated beforehand, there is no ethical offense committed.

Is the media scene in Kenya, as argued by veteran scribe Joe Kadhi,  ripe for such a situation? On the face of it, it might be asking for too much, given the fragile nature of the country's politics and not to mention the economy's own frailty. If a media house backs the wrong choice, it could have serious financial implications.

But then again, the reality is that certain media houses are bound to be adjudged pro-establishment, however hard they try to take the middle path. And others will always appear to bear the burden of being anti-government in the Kenyan public eye.

That could one day inspire some courage to openly declare an official position on major political matters like General Elections or a plebiscite, just like the way the press has been steadfast on declaring where they stand on issues of national importance like corruption or environmental conservation.

Thursday, 13 May 2010


Two decades into its dalliance with the constitution making process, Kenya's attempts at crafting an agreeable supreme law yet again enters another crucial stage.

But, as opined by renowned orator PLO Lumumba, Kenyans appear to have perfected the art of  'not missing an opportunity to miss an opportunity.'

As such,  it might well turn out that this historic moment goes begging again, with no previous lessons seemingly advising the latest attempt to midwife a new constitutional dispensation.

Why, for crying out loud, should a document that should ideally give Kenyans the best possible prospects in life bring out the worst in them? And why must this noble process be allowed to degenerate into a clash or contest between this and that camp or interest group?

Democracy dictates that Kenyans have a say on how they ought to relate to each other or with the state, and how the state should in return govern them. But it's always as if dictatorial forces take delight in formenting hard line stances in the name of democracy.

The 2005 constitutional referendum resulted in the country being polarized at the exact moment that it should have used the constitution making process to unite

It's either a con in the making or constitution making

If the current proposed Constitution is supposed to have stemmed from the harmonization of two drafts from the 2005 period, why isn't the country looking forward to the coming referendum in harmony?

These pressing questions aside, comes another shocker. That some copies of the the document being distributed to Kenyans at the current civic education stage, have been tampered with, with the Attorney General Amos Wako pointing an accusing finger at the National Security Intelligence Service.

Even the government printer cannot now be trusted to publish copies of the proposed Constitution as instructed by the State Law Office. But isn't this the same office that was being accused of interfering with the contents of the draft constitution in 2005, before it was subjected to a referendum?

There is clearly no point in teaching an old dog new tricks, when the old ones it has mastered are still relevant in new circumstances.

Wednesday, 5 May 2010


As the election campaign period in the UK gives way to the actual voting day, any keen Kenyan observer would by now have noticed one glaring omission. There has not been any single public rally addressed by the three contenders for Number 10 Downing Street.

Public rallies in Kenya have become like a must have for any politician seeking an elective post. And for the leaders serving in government, this translates to an open-ended license to mobilize state resources to whip up support for their re-election bid.

For a sitting President or Cabinet minister, this inevitably it seems, is a perfect opportunity to misuse taxpayers funds to grease their campaign machinery. They will criss-cross the country or constituency in convoys of fuel-guzzling government vehicles with civil servants in tow, which gives them an obvious advantage over their opponents.

For the shrewed politicians, no pre-panning efforts are spared in order to ensure that their public rallies are well attended. Even if it means hiring crowds and transporting them to the venue. The TV camera, they have been 'well' briefed, likes large crowds.

Here in the UK, those seeking  to be Prime Minister have no deep seated penchant to address mammoth crowds. Instead, they are content with addressing small groups or even individuals, as they move from door to door, selling their campaign pledges in homes, factories, schools, hospitals or even social clubs. Special addresses are given in conventions or town hall  like meetings, however.

Many of the campaigns by Nick Clegg, David Cameron and Gordon Brown could have most likely pass unnoticed, were it not for the media. And come news time, one is likely to only come across the campaign activities of these three candidates, with an occasional coverage of other parliamentary aspirants. Unlike in Kenya, where nearly every seeker of elective seats wants coverage.

Of course the socio-economic and political dynamics at play in the UK are markedly different than those found in Kenya, especially when it comes to the culture of cash handouts to entice voters. But that still does not make it out of order to question the obsession with public rallies in Kenyan politics.

Think of the wasted manhours, the pilfering of public resources and the associated election malpractices perpetuated through public gatherings like incitement and hate speech. Is the public rally a necessary platform for politicians to sell their policies or campaign pledges?

As proved by the UK election campaigns, there is a better alternative.

Saturday, 1 May 2010


It is no longer a matter of whether a time is coming when traditional media platforms will give way to new media. Ominous signs of this paradigm shift have been with us long enough to safely now start pondering how and when it will happen.

Not wanting to risk being reduced to nostalgically spectating, as my past journalistic experience fails to seamlessly gel with the demands of a future media industry, I really had no option but to presently take the next flight into the world of online journalism.

And this day marks a milestone in this transformational journey. I have crossed over to the other side of the fence, where the pasture is not just greener, but is also digital.

My personal website 'Albert Gachiri: In Pursuit of the Truth' has gone live, heralding new challenges and new opportunities but most importantly, my calling as a journalist has been handed a major boost. I did create it from scratch, you know.

Admittedly, my online technical skills are nothing to write home about but the good thing is that every digital step I make in cyber-space gets me closer to becoming a fully fledged multimedia journalist.

Although my site is for now embedded within the University of Westminster London Divercity students' group-produced www.londondivercity.co.uk, I hope to build on the skills learnt and one day have my own domain in the Internet.

So from today, feel free to use the following as insults, whenever I step out of line or act really stupid: HTML, CSS, Dreamweaver, Flash, Actionscript, Motion Tween, SEO, Div Tag, Semiotics, External Style Sheet, Meta Tags, Keywords and Root Folder.