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Friday, 27 July 2012


So the European Union says sanctions it imposed on Zimbabwe might be lifted, if a credible constitution referendum is organised. The US on its part says its restrictions would be removed only if there is a peaceful election. My question is, 'Who cares?' Zimbabwe has survived the worst that these sanctions could have been envisioned to bring.

So why should an African media outlet just rush to publicise what new conditions the western powers have given, for lifting the sanctions against Zimbabwe, without at least inviting discussion on whether there could be other hidden reasons, or if actually it's a realisation that Zimbabwe can as well trod on without EU or US support?

In my opinion, there is a fatal folly of the African press, reporting these developments, in the same vein as western media houses, which reinforces the domineering practise and attitudes towards Third World countries.

Similarly, is it fair for a media house in Africa to report widely that the American government has warned its citizens against travelling to the same country, where the same media house is based, due to an imminent terror attack?

That question is usually examined as an afterthought, long after the contents have been published or broadcast.

Such rash editorial decisions are mostly hinged on a blatant commodification of news, without the benefit of dissecting underlying factors or related implications of disseminating sensitive information.

Double edged travel advisories

If, in the above example, the media house is owned by Americans or caters for a clientele that is significantly American, or with substantial interests in American affairs, then it can probably not be faulted for rushing to the press, with 'gory' details of negative travel advisories.

But a media house based in Africa and majorly serving local consumers, must re-examine the elements of public and state interests, as it crafts news stories from travel advisories from 'external powers.'

It's contradictory for African media houses to deliberately seek to champion local, regional or continental concerns and at times even boldly pointing out cases of these western powers lording over developing countries, only for them to be among the first to pander to strategic interests of the same powers?

It will be interesting to examine in retrospect, how South Africa's decision to still import crude oil from Iran, will be covered by African media outlets.

I indeed at times see journalism and patriotism, as being two sides of the local currency coin.

Thursday, 19 July 2012


A book released recently is causing a storm in Kenya. The author makes some very unflattering 'revelations' about the Kenyan Prime minister, which are energetically being 'rebutted.' But it no longer is about the author and the senior politician, or his handlers. The whole nation seems to have been caught up in the ensuing cyclic brouhaha.

Mainstream and social media, blogs and other online platforms, are inundated with various shades of reactions. Check this out:

Friday, 13 July 2012


Do news sources have a right to turn down an interview request? And if they decline to comment on an issue, should they in turn be vilified or even ridiculed, when the story in question is published or aired? This has been my experience, stemming from my previous blog post. And if that's what news sources at times go through, then please, accept my apologies for all the times the media has been nasty and vindictive.

Perhaps I invited such coverage I can live with that. But this experience is eye-opening in the sense that it has brought to the fore the way the media can be manipulative. This is something, which as a journalist, I might have or even inadvertently continue to perpetuate. Hence my apologies.

It all began very politely, after this blog generated quite some interest. I received a formal request for an interview.

My reasons for declining the interview had to do with contractual obligations. But I guess the person pursuing the interview with me did not see it that way.

Notice the sharp change of tone from, when the interview was first being solicited, to the reaction after I declined the offer.

Maybe I erred by turning down the request and I have no business complaining about the contents of the published story, since I turned down a request to have my input incorporated.

I strongly felt I had said all that I needed to say, and I didn't wish the matter to unpredictably progress any further.

Pertinent question indeed. If Expression Today had approached me soon after the NTV incident, or shortly after the Media Council of Kenya magazine came out, I probably would have elected to talk to them, if I had not already put my version of events in the public domain.

I had only one bullet to use, without compromising my contractual obligations!

Thursday, 5 July 2012


T'was the night before February 4th, 2012. I was awoken from my slumber, at about 11pm, by a call from a senior editor, (whom I then reported to). For the record, (and the good folks at a leading mobile services provider can attest to this), information was passed to me, conclusively pointing to the demise of a former Cabinet minister, (now deceased). Being the duty editor the following day, and also designated to manage the online platform, I released the news to the public, via the company's social media accounts.

It was clearly a mistake. But should the blame have been entirely apportioned to an individual, or was it the company's news gathering and verification process that had failed, and hence the need for the responsibility to be borne collectively?

It became increasingly clear that my neck was squarely being put on the chopping board, going by the contents of the suspension letter handed to me, later that day. And up to this day, Bob Marley's words keep coming to mind, when I think of this incident.

Would you let the system make you kill your Brotherman?... No Dread No!

Unfortunately for me, it appeared like I was destined for sacrifice at the alter of betrayal, perhaps predictably, deserted by my colleagues, who very much precipitated my predicament.

Rather than prolong the pain from the apparent denial of fairness or justice, and the mental anguish of seeing personal professional principles I believe in, looking like they were non-existent to my senior colleagues, I resigned.

Yes. The erroneous information was sent out at about 7.30am that Saturday, retracted after about 30 minutes and an apology commendably published, suspension letter issued to me at around 3pm, before I tendered my resignation the very same afternoon.

After this dramatic exit from a company I had worked for, for nearly a decade, I opted to move on and close that horrid chapter in my career. Thankfully soon after, another opportunity elsewhere, came my way.

This episode did generate some rapid and at times rabid discussions, especially on social media platforms and the blogosphere. But I opted to keep my peace, and just watched from the sideline.

But now comes some discussions at a level that I simply cannot ignore, given the inaccuracies being propagated. My experience has now, it appears, become a case study of 'How not to practice bad online journalism.' 

In it's latest edition, a magazine published by the Media Council of Kenya, uses my example in two articles, (pardon the bad grammar), and even mentions me by name.

This presents a clear and present danger to my professional reputation as a journalist, on account of the misrepresentation of some of the facts espoused in the said articles, and more, so because the magazine is being distributed to the media fraternity in the country, from by and large, the local industry regulator.

The contradictions in the articles in question are glaring. One speaks highly of the need to captured all sides of a story, but 'conveniently' failed to seek my comment on the matter.

Moreover, there's this fixation with insisting I was sacked, which by omission or commission, suggests the company did the right thing by getting rid of an incompetent journalist, (me?)

As earlier pointed out. The information I pushed out was provided by somebody senior to me at the company. Furthermore, another senior editor did corroborate the details shortly afterwards. So, when did it become a professional crime to follow the lead of one's superiors at work?

If that information had been passed to me from somebody junior to me in the newsroom, I can guarantee that I instinctively would have cross-checked its veracity, with multiple sources and/or by counter-checking with my seniors.

Innocent but costly assumption

My assumption was that before the person I report to decided to call me, when I was asleep in my house, he had done the necessary background check and taken this sensitive information through the due diligence.

To make matters worse, I have reasons to believe that my seniors had already been made aware that the former Cabinet minister in question was then still alive, by the following morning. But none of them thought it wise to call me, to at least negate the discussion we had had the previous night.

Still, I took personal responsibility on account of having been the last gate-keeper. However, I strongly believed in this instance, there was a very necessary need to view my actions as a failure of the company's internal system, not as an indication of individual irresponsibility.

Had all these arguments been captured in The Media Observer articles, I think it would have made the content not only fair to me, but also more engaging, in terms of exposing the weaknesses of news gathering, processing and dissemination, in Kenyan newsrooms.