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News sources should be protected from risks

The media, especially investigative journalism, is among the most important sources of raising public awareness on vices within society. News reporting is essential in fighting corruption and holding leaders to account. Increasing attention is shifting to whistleblowers who turn to journalists in bringing issues of concerns to attention of the public.

However, there is some concern on how news sources are handled by investigative journalists. Journalists are often required to protect the identities of their resources especially when their lives are in danger.

In a story aired by Citizen TV on June 30, although the reporter disguised the voice and hid the face of the news source, the source revealed the identities of other sources, which might put them in harm’s way.

The Citizen TV reporter exposed a scam targeting mainly teachers in Migori County. Fake agents have been conning teachers seeking employment or promotion. The reporter investigated the individuals behind the fraud.

The main source, Mr Yassion Ombado, a former cook at Kameji Mixed Secondary School which was affected by the alleged cheating, extensively featured in the story. He said he had been threatened by his former boss but the report lacked details of the alleged threats. Ombado reveals the individuals behind the threat whom he named.

In some parts of the story, the reporter reveals the identities of other individuals allegedly involved in conning teachers.

Reporter: “[…] are said to have built a network with Teachers Service Commission. Their alleged role in the greedy outfit was to produce fake TSC letters and documents they send to ground agents via bus or courier services”.

Journalists should always understand that they hold great power and some people might be excited by the chance to appear on TV and say things that might put their lives at risk or the lives of their families and other relatives.

The reporter say the DCI is investigating the alleged text messages sent by the principal to his agents after “we the aired the first episode of the expose” but there is no sign of the reporter speaking to the DCI or any evidence of attempts to reach them.

Another notable observation is that journalists use new technologies to communicate with their sources through encrypted communication platforms. The question is the safety of the sources. This was evident when the reporter identified Ombado’s son who teaches in one of the schools and was conned.

In investigative reporting, journalists should assess the vulnerability of sources as well as their value as providers of information. According to The Code of Conduct for the Practice of Journalism in Kenya, “a person subject to this Act has a professional obligation to protect confidential sources of information”.

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