Fatal dalliance

The media is dancing with the devil, so to speak. It has unwittingly ceded its soul to both the ruling elite and the controllers of the advertising purse. Blue chip corporate (including telcos, alcohol makers and betting companies) and the Presidency are never in the critical eye of the press

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BY NLM WRITER

It wasn’t the facts that raised eyebrows. The unreserved, lack of restraint, free-for-all character annihilation of businessman Jimi Wanjigi by Kenya’s leading news outlet, Nation Media Group, has left observers worried about media fidelity to ethics and journalistic standards during this electioneering period.

According to multiple interviews, the Daily Nation of June 22, 2017 (The Jimi Wanjigi Connection: Nasa has opened its arms to Kenya’s most feared man) was, without doubt, a hatchet man’s job, the lowest form of journalism that exceptionally sought to convict and sentence a person without granting him the due “right of reply”. Not a single “fact” in the five full-page stories was attributed to a specific source.

“The article was absent in ethics, journalistic standards and even morality,” says a retired editor of one Kenya’s leading newsrooms. “Even the worst criminal deserves to be heard. But in this case, Jimi was convicted in the newspaper; not by a court of law.”

Neither did the writers attempt to reach out to Nasa principals for a comment. They sensationally linked the chill in Kenya/Tanzania relations to liaison between Jimi and President John Pombe Magufuli.

“The question in the minds of many is: How much damage will his presence do to the (Nasa’s) anti-corruption platform? And how, if it wins power, will Nasa rein in a man who knows the government better than the principals?” the article posed. Somehow, the writer appears to be on a pedestal – able to pour scorn on the intellectual and leadership acumen of Nasa principals.

So, if Jimi – who “brokered the alliance” between Uhuru and Ruto in 2013, according to the Daily Nation) – risked damaging Nasa’s anti-corruption strategy then, implicitly, he’s responsible for Jubilee’s stark reluctance to deal with the widespread public malfeasance within its ranks.

Nonetheless, the Daily Nation story raises plenty of questions.

Can traditional media (print and broadcast) display utmost maturity of fairness, and balanced and independent coverage of events crucial to country’s history? Do media outlets have the spine to resist the allure of political generosity (outright bribes, advertising revenue)? Are news managers individuals beyond reproach, devoid of the vices we see in politicians?

Jimi may be a tender baron per excellence and “most feared man”– as portrayed by Daily Nation in five of its 52 pages on the particular day. He may not deserve the honour reserved for millions of Kenyans eking livelihoods in decent and honest manner. But any serious media outlet driven by the tenets of ethics and integrity has to exhibit, in talk and deed, respect for itself and the national’s sensibilities in times of elections.

And this is not just caution. Rather, it’s about publishing the truth – not hearsay nor perception, and street-talk. Any news article not sourced, that’s judgmental in character…

…to read more please purchase the Nairobi Law Monthly Magazine July 2017 Issue at only Kshs 350

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