If you feel a news story does not measure up to expected journalistic standards, bring it to the Journalism Dry Cleaner. Through our collective wisdom, we will strip it of all offensive dirt.




Friday, 30 July 2010


For how much longer should past colonisers continue to posses and profit from items seized from their former colonies? For eternity? This seems to be the view held by David Cameron, the British Prime minister.

According to a news report carried by BBC online, Cameron flatly refused calls for a prized diamond last worn by the late mother of Queen Elizabeth, to be returned to India, where it was mined.

And his cunning explanation apparently has more to do with the fear of opening up the way for other claims and less to do with a reluctance to admit any wrong-doing.

"If you say yes to one you suddenly find the British Museum would be empty..."

In essence, what the British Prime minister is saying is that his country knows too well that apart from the Koh-i-Noor diamond, there are other ill-gotten treasures, historical sculptures and ancient artifacts donning the many impressive museums scattered across the UK.

And many such institutions charge entrance fees, meaning the museums are deriving commercial value from possibly 'stolen treasures.' Isn't that supposed to be illegal?

Perhaps time is nigh for international laws to be drafted to compel countries like Britain to return what rightfully belongs to other nations, having had the misfortune of being colonised by plunderers.

If the BBC is truly not a government mouthpiece, it should perhaps have closely interrogated Cameron's remarks about the famous diamond, which has been part of the Crown Jewels for more than a century.

But trust them to prominently and extensively quote a historian, who questions the validity of India's quest to have the Koi-i-Noor returned to its rightful owners.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010


So Kenya is upbeat about getting 1.2 million tourists this year, according to the country's tourism minister. Is this good news, is it worth celebrating, or is it the height of underachievement?

If such a story is reported in the media in a confined context limited to the arrival figures of tourists in Kenya, it would really be hard for one to appreciate the significance of hitting the 1.2 million target.

Whereas if this figure is perhaps compared or contrasted with how other countries are fairing in Africa for example, one might then begin to properly gauge the import of this projected number of tourists to Kenya.

Egypt for example, received 12.8 million visitors in 2008. The number of people, who visited South Africa, just before the 2010 World Cup came to a close, had reached 1 million.

Of course the dynamics in these countries in terms of tourist attractions or motivation for travelling to these destinations are quite different to those found in Kenya. But that is besides the point.

By giving such a comparative analogy, the news story would enable the audience to better digest where Kenya stands in terms of its ability to attract foreign visitors, as opposed to narrowing the scope to reflect only the country's internal performance.

In other words, some stories end up being shallow mere reportage if care is not taken to give a critical analysis of what is being reported.

So what if Kenya gets its one million foreign visitors?

Wednesday, 14 July 2010


Uganda's capital city Kampala, has just been rocked by a deadly twin-terrorist attack, with more than seventy people perishing. For the average person to appreciate the gravity of these attacks, the media need not illustrate it with dead bodies.

And yet the images splashed in the Ugandan media seem to negate this very central tenet of journalism ethics. Indeed, very, very disturbing pictures have been posted on the Internet.

And it is hard to believe there is any good that can come out of placing some of these images on social networking sites, even as a way of spurring beneficial debate.

The carnage was horrific and many Ugandans are in mourning. Posting such images online will surely aggravate the trauma of the victims' relatives or anybody, who can recognise them.

I have made it a habit of complaining about the way the western media is fond of showing dead bodies, when reporting about conflicts in Africa or other developing countries, and yet seem to apply another ethical standard, when covering stories of dead people in their own or fellow industrialised states.

I once entered into a heated argument with a TV producer of NHK of Japan, when I was in Tokyo, after seeing close-ups of dead bodies in a documentary the channel had produced about the Darfur conflict in western Sudan.

And in my MA classes here in the UK, many a times have found me castigating the western press for their penchant for double standards. My favourite example being the way dead bodies were splashed across international channels after the 1998 terrorist attacks in Nairobi because the live images were being received and relayed unedited.

But comparatively, every care was taken to avoid showing people jumping from the twin towers after the September 11 attacks in America, despite the images being in the possession of TV networks, as they happened.

It is thus quite devastating for me to see Africa's own media being insensitive to its own people, whether covering their lives or deaths.

Monday, 5 July 2010


Many award-winning journalists take pride in dedicating their success to the sources of their stories. The mention at the podium could be based on the hope that highlighted problems will attract the attention they deserve. Or the showcased success would be celebrated and even replicated elsewhere. But is that enough?

There is no denying that in meriting recognition for outstanding journalistic work, some media practitioners go through lots of difficulties and even direct threats to their very existence. Undercover or investigative reporters could definitely expound on this issue.

Others cover great distances before accessing remote areas that eventually produce a gem of a story, worthy of critical acclaim. And even after getting the raw information on the ground, accomplished journalists have been known to infuse their own brand of story-telling magic to make their coverage truly stand out.

My 2007 CNN African Journalism Award
So the moment journalists get honoured for their exemplary professional achievement, they can't be faulted for taking it as their personal source of pride and ample proof of their credentials as worthy scribes.

Of course many will remember to thank the Almighty, family, colleagues and a word or two is reserved for the subjects in their award-winning pieces.

 I can't help but imagine how much better it would have been for me to go back to that community of Mwingi, in rural Kenya, that provided the setting for my winning environment entry at the 2007 CNN African Journalist Awards. It's a crying shame that I have never privately gone back to say thank you and share with them my success.

Likewise, this years' winner in the Economic and Business category, NTV Kenya's Kaara Wainaina, can perhaps spend some time with those hearty and astute grandmothers, whose model banking system earned him his trophy. 

Rose Wangui from NTV also, could share her success on the ground with the children, whose moving tale of a troubled pursuit of education, earned Wangui her TV News Bulletin accolade. 

The same goes to the likes of Sarah Kimani, formerly of NTV but now working for SABC and the overall 2009 CNN African Journalist of the Year, who recently switched to NTV from KTN, John- Allan Namu, as well as other Kenyan winners of the prestigious awards. 

As a matter of fact, the sponsors of the competition should consider setting aside some cash token or material benefits for the subjects or communities, whose coverage yield the award-winning entries. 

That way, it will definitely cease to look like journalists getting rewarded for exploiting the stories and circumstances of their news sources, to weave brilliant winning pieces only for the highlighted stories to be forgotten in readiness for the next round of competition.