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.




Saturday, 7 April 2012


The horror. The injustice. The violation of human rights. The suspect and the not so gentlemanly officers. These words can't even describe a news clip first screened by one Kenyan TV station, before the others followed suit, given the high profile reaction it elicited. Simply playing the raw footage in a prime time bulletin was bold but extreme. Unless the news was rated PG.

Screening the graphic violence meted on a hapless youth by the security agents in its entirety, passed the acceptable threshold in my opinion. Yes it probably was necessary to capture the gruesomeness of the assault. But playing the clip ad nauseum, made it revolting.

And then there was the part of the uncensored 'uncouth' language.' These officers were audibly and repeatedly referring to the young man's privates and yet the editor let this pass. Or has the utterance of certain words, long considered obscene, suddenly become acceptable in public?

Great effort, albeit inadequate in some instances, was made to digitally cover the man's modesty, given that the officers were determined to unleash their whipping frenzy on bare skin, preferably on the posterior end of his anatomy.

So why wasn't the same ethical editing consideration made for the unpalatable reference to the man's privates? True to the offensive word being unprintable, the sub-title left it blank.

But for anyone who understands Kiswahili, this was a wasted effort because the same word was being loudly thrown about with careless abandon in the news clip. If there were any kids watching this piece of news, then they have the TV to blame for a lewd addition to their everyday parlance.

The footage was delivered without any voice over to give it proper context. This perhaps was designed to bring out the full extent of the despicable conduct of government security agents. But with hindsight, this decision appears to have been ill-advised.

It turns out the incident actually happened three years ago!

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