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Media monitoring: How media covered Sonko’s corruption arraignment

When Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko was arrested over corruption related offences, all newspaper splashed sensational headlines on December 10, 2019 describing the Governor in different styles. For The Standard newspaper, it was the “End of error”. The Star turned historical by linking Sonko’s past to the present events, “Criminal past of Governor Sonko exposed in Court”.

The People Daily wrote, “Sonko’s world crumbles”, while Daily Nation said, Crisis at City Hall as Sonko era collapses.” The paper didn’t focus on Sonko but the institutional challenge in what appeared as a leadership vacuum.

Now the question is: Did The Standard allude to the end of Governor Sonko’s mistakes or an end to his period as governor or something else we weren’t told? Again, what were the newspapers upto? Corruption is widely considered to have adverse effects to all sectors of a country and this doesn’t require to be personalized as witnessed from the coverage by the newspapers.

Additionally, Nairobi County has witnessed tension in most of 2019 especially in the county assembly where MCAs supporting Governor Sonko or Speaker Beatrice Elachi clashed.

Although the newspapers provided in-depth information in the inside pages, the style of presentation of headlines could excite readers, making them misinterpret some information on the front pages. As reported by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting (FAIR) in 2011, a New York-based media organization, sensational reporting causes manipulation of the truth of a story.

On Wednesday, December 11, 2019, except The Standard, all other newspapers (Nation, Star and People Daily) continued with Governor Sonko’s story as their major headlines. More interestingly, a story by The Star newspaper ignored the HIV and Aids policy which prohibits disclosure of test results and makes it an offence for anyone to be discriminated against actual or perceived or suspected HIV status.

While relying on previous court case of 2000, the newspaper wrote, “High court judge Samuel Oguk released Sonko from prison three months before completing his one-year sentence”. By relying heavily on court case, the newspaper ignored medical experts and professional bodies such as National Aids Control Council, National Aids & STI Control Programme or even hospital records. This is clear case of a story which should have attracted further investigation among the journalists if the newspaper needed to tell the public about Sonko’s health status.

Governor Sonko is facing corruption charges and linking it with HIV or generally the individual’s health changes focus of the story.

The Standard newspaper ignored the corruption story facing Sonko, except in an editorial challenging senators’ decision to defend Sonko in court. “Be that as it may, the public is justified to question whether the two senators are in order to represent Sonko” (p.14). The major story in the newspaper was job creation where it cited a survey by KNBS showing performance of various sectors.

On Thursday, December 12, 2019 the corruption case against Sonko continued as the main story in Daily Nation and Star newspapers, with Standard delving into a case of family in which an Italian priest sired two children with a Samburu woman while in his missionary duties in the region.

In summary, it is important to recognize the role of the media in highlighting corruption but there is a need for the media to focus on the aspects of corruption as opposed to the personality of the alleged individuals involved in corruption. Indeed, without the media it would be virtually impossible for the Kenyan public to get informed of today’s events.

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