REDEFINED PAST

Moi death coverage shows compromise in Kenyan media

There's a danger of erasing history for the convenient truth

In Summary

• High point of compromise in Kenyan media can be seen from its coverage of former president Moi’s death. 

• Feature stories on his life are easily a captivating read for someone ignorant of Kenya’s recorded past. 

Former President Daniel Moi during a meeting at his Kabarnet garden in Nairobi.
SECOND PRESIDENT: Former President Daniel Moi during a meeting at his Kabarnet garden in Nairobi.
Image: FILE

The age-long function of the media has been to pursue the truth and nothing but the absolute truth. Speaking of which, there is a sense in which Kenyan media is complicit in bolstering impunity–in this case redefining the past.

Good journalism is effective and independent. It does not live by the philosophy of compromise or sacredness of events. It does not accommodate innuendos or cold, shallow reporting. In other words, it does not itch for balance. 

It speaks truth to power. It goes out of its way to guard the integrity of people’s historicity. Good journalism is the voice of the everyday man in an absolute system.

You do not have to comb deeper to notice the bad journalism in Kenya–timid and compromised. For instance, when reports of heinous killings of opposition supporters in Mathare and Dandora emerged following the shambolic 2017 presidential elections, mainstream media downplayed the magnitude of the situation. Occasionally rubberstamping reports by the government if not employing cursory radar. 

On the 2017 post-election police killings that were clearly classical of ethnic cleansing, the mainstream media did a shoddy, near-subjective job. Citizen journalism outdid it by far. 

If Kenyan media has failed the public in the past, it did so spectacularly in the 2017 presidential elections. 

The high point of compromise in Kenyan media can be seen from its coverage of former president Daniel Moi’s death. This past week has seen media platforms awash with the sensational hagiography of the late president. The feature stories are easily a captivating read for someone ignorant of Kenya’s recorded past. 

Yet there is danger in attempting to erase a section of history to replace it with the convenient truth. It can be self-defeating for its architects in the fullness of time.

In the interim, Kenyan media can do better than just sitting there like a special state appendage in charge of PR. 

 

Journalism student at Multimedia University of Kenya