The Kenyan media played a critical role in expansion of the democratic space, especially after the Cold War when the demand for political pluralism was a norm across Africa.
During that period, the media became indistinguishable from the official opposition; it provided the opposition unfettered coverage, and also chastised the government by exposing its malfeasance.
After expanding its incredible capital in seeing Moi go, the opposition, just like several institutions- the civil society, the donors and religious organization, who formed a strong compact in calling for reform.
But after Kibaki came into power, the media, as the above institution found itself in the twilight zone. Instead, they wrongfully assumed since the opposition is in government, their role was done.
But few months into Kibaki’s administration, the media realized, they are outsiders. When they realized the Kibaki administration was as corrupt as Moi’s, and started exposing them, the government reacted like any entitled kid would.
Since then, every time people speak about the media’s failure, I am reminded of this Sinatra’s song -“I’ll Never Be The Same”
stars have lost their meaning for me,
I’ll never be the same,
nothing’s what it once used to be,
And when the sun-birds that sing tell me it’s spring,
I can’t believe their song,
once love was king,
but kings can be wrong,
I’ll never be the same,…
The Video below
I previously wrote a longer piece re the Kenya media after the 2013 elections herehttp://www.pambazuka.org/en/category/features/88878
But Nation’s article on Dennis Itumbi, the Director of Digital, New Media and Diaspora Affairshttp://www.nation.co.ke/news/NIS-report-casts-doubt-on-Itumbi-s-academic-papers/-/1056/2340880/-/3bvehk/-/index.html
According to the piece, which starts of, “The fate of the Director for Digital, New Media and Diaspora Affairs at State House hangs in the balance following a confidential intelligence report that questions his academic credentials and suitability to serve in a sensitive government office”
Additionally, the piece states, “According to the NIS security vetting brief, Mr Itumbi allegedly led student unrest at the institution and used this as leverage to force the then management of the college led by Mr Eliud Sang to “award him and his class (of 50) Diplomas in Broadcast Journalism while they were enrolled to do a certificate course in the same”.
This piece has several problems;
1. The Nation never quoted Itumbi in the piece which is journalism 101, someone makes an allegation against you, you have a right to reply.
2.The veracity of the allegation that Itumbi blackmailed the school to award him a diploma when he registered for a certificate course should have been double checked with the school not NIS.
3. That the NIS comes with a background check report about Itumbi a year after the man has been at the job has hatchet job written all over it. Background checks are conducted before, and not after someone is hired. This demonstrates NIS’s priority and modus operandi; instead of collecting intelligence, it is engaged in rumor mongering.
4. When the country is gripped by insecurity, is Itumbi’s credential what should be NIS’s priority, really?
5. Kibaki’s politicization of NIS will come and bight plenty of people. Kenyatta was handed the opportunity to make changes after Westgate, and they’re slowly growing into a veritable monster. After Itumbi, their next move could be anyone, including the president himself.
6. Giving such an institution a warrant-less tapping of people’s phone not only creates an egregious human rights violation, but also gives them a blank check at political black mailing.
But the Nation piece is not an isolation, but a systemic commentary on the state of the media. The piece comes against the background of Larry Madowo hosting “socialite” Vera Sidika.
In a country teaming with poverty and unemployment, runaway insecurity and general despondency, the nation and NTV found it newsworthy to titillate us with tales of socialite of Sidika’s mould, and hatchet job from NIS passing as a background due diligence on Itumbi dripping with personal vendetta.
As some one who attended journalism school, I always find it hard to criticize my former colleagues because of the structural limitations within which the operate. However, it is about time some one call out the media for failing to fulfill its basic responsibility here.