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Mea culpa: Media hurt the Judiciary

Journalism got a thorough – and deserved – thrashing last week from the judges.

In the good book there are the judges, and then you have a certain crowd of sneaky characters: scribes and their buddies, the Pharisees and tax collectors.

The scribes almost always wrote the wrong things – of course with the knowing winks and nods of the Pharisees and KRA honchos. (Sorry, the Kenya Revenue Authority is a very good institution. They would immediately ring up DPP Noordin Haji if a Zacchaeus lugging bags of cash appeared on their doors.)

Now Haji had a rather funny job last week. His office made an announcement:

“Attached media clip has been brought to the attention of the DPP. Despite the fact that convict was charged during the era of Police Prosecutors and before the 2010 Constitution, the DPP has directed that an immediate follow be done.”

 Haji has enough trouble to last a lifetime and would be the last person to worry about media reports. But he was referring to an exclusive story by Inooro TV, the Gikuyu language station owned by Royal Media Services. Reporters like calling RMS boss SK Macharia the media mogul.

Inooro TV reported that Lydia Ochieng was wrongfully convicted, sentenced to 10 years in prison and served the term for having sex with a child.

Many news outlets picked up the story.

No Kenyan – journalist or the woman on the street – trusts public institutions. The justice system is particularly most hated. You lock up a chicken thief and let a big shot get away with a scandal that leaves thousands dead. Think of healthcare thieves.

Murderers and ‘honourable’ thugs walk free among us while a woman who has nothing else but to offer her body for money to feed her children is jailed. And Muthaiga moralists pontificate on women’s choices in Korogocho…

But Lydia’s case was an indictment of failed journalism. The Judiciary set the record straight that she is “a properly and conclusively convicted sexual offender.”

We bow our collective head in shame for failing our trade. The Judiciary said:

“We urge media to always verify stories from inmates against court records to avoid misleading the public. In this case, Judiciary takes great exception to not being afforded an opportunity before the story went on air.”

Much obliged, your honours. Mea culpa.

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