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February 19, 2019

No Press Pass-Truth Is Needed

No press pass– truth isneeded
No press pass– truth isneeded

I almost didn't file a column  today. I've been away for a week, and we are still talking about corruption and although I am aware that we must begin to seriously fight corruption and not just talk about it, my spirit is weary that we don't hate corruption - we simply don't.

Where our tribesmen, our friends, our businesses, our chosen political party of the moment is enjoying corruption - then it is not corruption, it is only deemed corruption when we are not in the mix. So the road to ending this vice is long and hard and full of pretenders least of them being our political class.

Let me give you an example from within our esteemed profession (sic) journalism/media. When the President in his Jamuhuri Day remarks stated that we will be asked as media to prove what we happily published, someone posted on Facebook 

"So, Mr. President, how do we know who is telling the truth? *searches internet for a lie detector as Megan Trainor plays in background* How very, very sad.

Somewhere along the way to the promised land of ratings, revenue and sensationalism and since we can't really take off our clothes for more "likes or re-tweets, we forgot about our duty and mandate to the public and audiences we serve. We seemed to have forget that majority of the public take what we say as gospel truth and by the time we print a small retraction the size of nothing to a story we carried as truth, the damage is already done and since we are not in the business of running headlines that say "we were wrong" our public is left to sort that issue out for themselves. Look no further than "mass graves of Mandera." With one body.

My fellows Kenyans, on this one, media doesn’t get a press pass at all. We have work to do. We have  been challenged before by the public, by the business community and now by the President. Tuko na kesi ya kujibu.

Joe Kadhi, Victor Bwire and James Mburu (I don't know any of them) had a sober and engaging discussion on the matter (in perfect grammar and good spellings for the most part, mind you) – obviously, it received very little traction because it didn't involve bad spellings, name calling, political affiliations or tribal divides. In the world of social media in Kenya that only makes for a big yawn.

Let me recount the conversation highlights for you and hope you will find Joe Kadhi on FaceBook and join the discussion without degenerating to name-calling.

Joe KadhiEvery time I have discussed the importance of independence of professional journalists I begin to elaborate the importance of that independence from Governmental interference in editorial decision-making process. As a matter of fact, some of the most elaborate examples I like to give about the need to keep governments away from editorial decision making process concerns my own case as the managing editor of the Daily Nation during the first Saba Saba Day in this country when a number of people died. At that time I received a call from the most powerful person in the country ordering me not to publish the story in the next day’s paper. That story is today found in a book by Gerry Loughran called “Birth of a Nation.”

To cut a long story short I would like to say Uhuru here seems to be the one person who respects freedom of the media and even today he said as much. You will remember Kinoti Kiriamiti on Madaraka Day when MPs were worked up and were in fact planning to come up with anti-media laws. Who came to the media’s assistance at that time? Uhuru Kenyatta. All that the President is telling the media in Kenya is to be more professional and I can see nothing wrong with that. If lawyers can be told to be more professional and stop making deals that promote corruption; and doctors can be told to be more professional and stop running backstreet abortion clinics why should the journalists be told to do the same without anyone suspecting that some plan to muzzle the Fourth Estate is being contemplated?

Indeed, Kadhi has a point, why can’t we be called upon to be factual without making snide comments about searching for lie-detectors on the internet. Incidentally, there is one, it’s called fact checking. Mutinda Mwanzia steps in and states the nature of the problem in a short but fine sentence.

Mutinda Mwanzia ...The problem in our media is double edged...political and business interests....add an authoritarian regime...poor pay ...corruption within the media's a powder keg.

 Victor Bwire The media must deal with issues of lack of professionalism among some journalists weak media support groups and institutions rivalry failure to establish serious peer review mechanisms lack of unity and dialogue on common national and professional issues .

James Mburu Victor Bwire, I concur with you as we peer review the profession we also educate the public to demand professionalism.

James Mburu In my view, journalist these days are running with scoops that want to be seen to be first with the information without minding the credibility and the gravity the information may be on the well being of the country.

At this point another sober mind by the name of Pete Manson joins the conversation. He has me nodding as I read his point of view.

Pete Manson Could David Ndii and any Nation Editor on this forum respond to this because i saw the Eurostory given two full pages in an analysis last Saturday. Today, CS Rotich bought space and published his take. I am lost on what is or what is not on the Eurobond story. Could our Business editors/ accountants take it up and direct us please.

Pete Manson‪ In my school of thought, I keep personalities out of my contributions so as not to fall foul of defamation laws. However, what HE UK said today is something we have broached in this forum before , freedom and responsibility. Scoops are the order of the day, facts or lack of thereof notwithstanding. And mainstream knows that social media leads with breaking news and gossip, infact most gossip on social media is given by journalists who fear their stories will not be let to run in mainstream. What next? I lost interest in local news to be honest.

I would like to suggest that Manson receive state security for stating that simple fact. Most if not all “gossip” on social media is given and written by journalists. I just heard our audiences gasp. Sawa. Now you know.

Joe Kadhi‪ Under normal circumstances I would quite understand your reasoning for lack of interest in the presentation of news in Kenya Pete Manson; but when no less a person than Uhuru Kenyatta comes out with a very direct criticism of lack of professionalism in the journalism in this country then the whole matter changes. Yet very surprisingly his criticism is neither malicious nor threatening at all. ‪Victor Bwire has an important point on self regulation .


Pete Manson‪ Agreed Prof..and I have stated subtly that Uhuru Kenyatta has addressed the very concerns we have raised before on this platform on lack of professionalism may I even add..."influence of brown envelopes" in bending rules. Now I hope media goes into introspection but guess what, I know they will come out guns blazing and say any aggrieved person can sue for defamation.. they have done it before remember?

Dennis Mangoa Mosota‪ Joe Kadhi, how I wish all Kenyan journalists were following this discussion! Very informative!

I echo Denis Mangoa and I’ll take it from here and hand this over to Mark Maasai. Mr. Masai, when you host PressPass this week, I hope this item will be handled and handled well. We are rubbish as media at calling ourselves out and yet we get very vicious when we are told to behave. Self-criticism is not popular among the media. Indeed, sometimes it seems that’s our only taboo.  

Democracy and civil society need informed citizens, otherwise they will have difficulties in surviving.

Without media organisations aware of their own power and responsibility, an informed citizenship cannot be sustained.  We who sit around the media table like to say that Kenyans are shallow, that they can’t abide depth of any nature. The public is as smart as what we feed them.

Garbage in - garbage out – it’s really that simple.  What are we feeding our audiences and don’t give me that bogus line about just reporting the news – Media is the message and the messenger.  

So before we troll Kadhi and open an “RIP Joe Kadhi” Facebook account. Before we start a tweeter hashtag stating “dieVictordie”, before we get all hot and bothered because James’ last name apparently betrays him and dismiss Pete, because Manson is not our tongue – let’s read what they are stating so aptly, reflect on it and if indeed truth carries the day, let’s act on it. Ni hayo tu.










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