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Questions of integrity still dog our journalism

This is a sad case for the integrity of journalism in Kenya.

On October 23, 2018 three journalists were arrested for allegedly posting nude pictures of Kakamega Senator Cleophas Malala on social media. The journalists through different media admitted to the claims and asked for forgiveness.

Without mentioning the names here, the three admitted to having been instructed by Sports Cabinet Secretary Rashid Echesa to flood the internet with the false information.

Laptops and phones belonging to the journalists were confiscated; they would later be released after recording statements with the Director of Criminal Investigations. Police sent a letter to the CS demanding him to appear before KICC police station for interrogations.

Their apologies on different media platforms notwithstanding, their actions to maliciously spread false information remains a big let-down to the media fraternity. Clearly, this was unethical and certainly a case of the dangers of the ‘brown envelope’.

The journalists have since surrendered their press cards at the Media Council of Kenya, complying with an order from the council. They await the council’s verdict.

The Observer maintains that the fourth estate enjoys the trust of the masses who strongly believe in the information disseminated. Therefore media houses and journalists have a duty to report accurately and without bias on matters of public interest. Any journalistic practice that is devoid of strict adherence to set guidelines violates the integrity and credibility of an individual and the attached institution.

Section 3 (1) and (2) (c) of the Code of conduct for the Practice of Journalism stipulates that: “a journalist shall present news with integrity and common decency, avoiding real or perceived conflict of interest, and respect the dignity and intelligence of the audience as well as the subject of news.”

The journalists in this case also failed on accountability. Section 4 (c) of the code states that: “a person subject to the Act shall recognise that they are accountable for their actions to the public, the profession and themselves therefore shall -recognize that they are duty-bound to conduct themselves ethically.”

Lastly the journalists did not adhere to the code on independence when they accepted to be used to misinform. The code stipulates that: “Journalists shall defend the independence of all journalists from those seeking influence or control over news content. They should resist self-interest or peer pressure that might undermine journalistic duty and service to the public.”

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