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BBC story on night runners was suspect journalism

Radio Ramogi last week correctly called out the BBC on its recent controversial documentary featuring night running, a historically mythological practice in Western Kenya.

The veracity of the BBC story, posted May 7, is in serious doubt.

The 50-minute story by investigative reporter Tom Oduma, who discloses that he is a member of the Luo community living in Nairobi, is based on interviews and video footage that purportedly caught Homa Bay night runners in the act.

“I have acquired video footage that to the best of my knowledge is the only recorded evidence of night running,” Oduma crowed.

Early in the documentary, Oduma acknowledges that it’s very difficult for night runners to open up about their nocturnal activity. However, he says, he was lucky to find a couple willing to talk on camera and that hoped the couple would allow cameras to film them in the act.

The camera then swings to the couple, Sam Otieno and Grace Awino – and a toddler who appears to be the couple’s daughter. No disguise. All on the record.

And this is where the story starts to go south.

First, full disclosure of unacceptable social behavior would instantly put confessed perpetrators to immediate, grave danger. At the very least, they would be banished from the community. In the story, the subjects don’t seem bothered by this. This is a red flag.

Second, it’s grossly unethical of the BBC to put a minor on record, stark in the centre of a shunned, dangerous practice. Shame on you, BBC!

Third, the story just doesn’t add up. a) The reporter already stated at the outset that he was hoping his subjects would allow him to film them doing their thing at night. b) The same reporter says they would be placing hidden cameras at night to secretly capture night running footage.

And sure enough, the night footage captures Otieno and Awino, who were interviewed earlier in the day. Why didn’t any BBC editor catch this open contradiction?

Fourth, a self-confessed president of night runners, identified as Jack Songo, claims in the documentary that at night they operate wild animals, including giraffes, elephants and hyenas. This ludicrous claim goes unchallenged.

Well, where do you hide a giraffe and an elephant in the village? Nobody has seen a giraffe and an elephant roaming the villages in Homa Bay county. The Kenya Wildlife Service would have something to say about it.

Radio Ramogi, a Royal Services Media station with the widest reach in the Luo community, laughed it all off.

“People are hungry, man! There’s a drought and a famine ravaging the land,” said a show host in Dholuo. “It’s so bad that people will take Sh4 to put on an act!”

The local broadcaster gave an example of a friend he called Steve Warlord, clearly a pseudonym, from Kajulu in Kisumu county. Steve, he said, spread word among “white men” that along the lake in Uyoma, it’s possible to catch night runners riding hippos at night. And sure enough, the “white men” showed up and set up cameras to catch the night action.

What happened, instead, is that donkeys and all sorts of animals were painted and gagged and climbed on at 2:00am in the night for cameras!

It’s all nonsense, said Radio Ramogi. Conmanship!

Night runners are never caught, villagers will tell you. Well, it’s not a scientific impossibility. Rather, it’s part of the folklore that, a) night runners are steeped in trickery, evasion and subterfuge and, b) attempting to catch them is plain dangerous.

So, if people who live in the same village of “known” night runners have never caught one in the act, what are the chances that an outsider who parachutes into the village with cameras and lights would?

Good luck to journalism!

2 thoughts on “BBC story on night runners was suspect journalism”

  1. It is very absurd to see a story being stage managed by one of the main media houses .I’m a journalist but that night runners story was a blackmail to journalist,I’m from the luo community and trust me no night runner can come out to accept their situation . The act is spiritual and should not be joked with.

  2. The couple clearly earned enough a dime for that day, we all can tell.
    I did not watch the entire clip- could not stand such disgracing journalism. What’s even more saddening is that an editor from a renown BBC cleared such content for global consumption! RIP Journalism

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