Bid to gag me after Raila oath led to Nation exit — Madowo

Fighting the state's 'direct assault on the media' was why he and colleague were targeted

In Summary

• He wrote about escaping arrest but the story was killed and he was put off air

Larry Madowo
Larry Madowo
Image: Courtesy

BBC business editor and former NTV anchor Larry Madowo has opened up why he ditched Nation Media Group.

Speaking during his acceptance speech at the Association of Foreign Correspondents in the US, Larry said his former employer refused to publish a story he had written during the contentious general election in 2017.

In it, he'd talked about his experience evading police for covering the symbolic swearing-in of opposition leader Raila Odinga

In his speech, Larry said together with his colleague, he crouched under a car that came out of the basement of Nation Media Group.


"We made it out of the newsroom where I used to work. It's very dramatic in the movie but in real life, it's not. It's smelly," he said.

He went on to explain how tense the situation was back then after the government pulled the unprecedented move of shutting down three major media houses, in a bid to ensure Raila's planned swearing-in ceremony did not receive any sort of national coverage.

"I was an anchor and an editor at one of the stations, NTV, and I was on the air when our signal was taken off the air and I became one of the most critical opponents of this attempt to muzzle us," Madowo said.

He said his decision to directly oppose the government's direct assault on the media was the reason why they were targeted.

"One of my colleagues and our boss were earmarked for arrest by the wing of the Kenya police that is known for very brutal arrests and people disappearing. So I would have been arrested and disappeared forever. That is why we hid ourselves in a safe house," he said.

Larry said they then got an anticipatory bail, which blocks the government from arresting you.

When he went back to work, where he also had a column in the newspaper, he wanted to write about his experience but the editor refused to publish the story. 


"I was also put off air for a while and told that I can interview these people when I come back," he said.

He said he was not only the target of arrest but also the organisation was trying to self-censor to try not to displease the government. 

"That was unacceptable for me and so I ended up publishing the same story with CNN.com and I left the organisation. I joined BBC, where I got a great job," he said.

Larry Madowo is on a career break from his job as the BBC Africa Business Editor to be a Knight-Bagehot Fellow at Columbia University in New York, where he is earning an MA in Business and Economics Journalism.

On Monday, November 4th, 2019, the Association of Foreign Correspondents in the United States (AFC-USA) held its inaugural Annual Awards and ...