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Editorial

We never attempt prophecy at The Observer. That is the job of Owuor, Ng’ang’a, Kanyari, Muiru and similarly privileged reverends who have special access to the mind of the Most High.

But in last week’s editorial we came close. We suggested the corona vaccine could be yet another opportunity for the powerful and those connected to them to jump the queue – as happened in Argentina where the health minister quit over the scandal.

Here is a matter of life and death confronting all the 47 million Kenyans. The country has obtained just over a million doses that can only cover 1.25 million people in the first phase. Priority will be given to frontline healthcare and other workers who are highly exposed to the pandemic by the nature of their work.

And you are a journalist believing powerful people will miss the opportunity?

“Politicians jump the line for the Covid-19 jab”, the Nation splash read on March 3. Cabinet Secretaries, Permanent Secretaries and politicians had found their way to the top priority list alongside health workers, security officers and teachers.

“President Uhuru Kenyatta and senior government officials will be among the first people to be vaccinated against the virus”, the paper reported.

“A highly-placed health official confirmed that some politicians will get the shot in the first phase of the vaccination drive alongside health workers.”

That means as they go around the country addressing mammoth crowds at rallies and funerals, the politicos will be safe from infection while the pitiable hoi polloi cheering them on are exposed to the contagion.

Nothing surprising there. It was bound to happen. What raised our eyebrows, though, was the front-page story in The Star headlined, “Kagwe: Uhuru, Cabinet not in covid jab list” (March 3).

“Health CS Mutahi Kagwe has said President Uhuru Kenyatta and his Cabinet are not a priority in Covid vaccination,” the report said.

“The CS told the Star last night that the most important people are frontline health workers, teachers, police officers and the vulnerable”.

It was not clear why the Star asked Kagwe whether the President and the Cabinet would be on the Covid jab list. Or did Kagwe call the paper to deliver that exclusive?

Now, between the Nation story and the official denial carried by the Star the same day, which one is the public likely to believe?

In a democracy, citizens should trust information provided by their government and the media. But, often, the government is not a reliable source. That is why the nation needs media that tries to independently establish the truth, away from official pronouncements.

That is the watchdog role of journalists. It is founded on skepticism. If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out.

Unless the President, Cabinet and other politicians receive the Covid jab publicly, the only other way of knowing whether they have been included in the list of frontline workers or not is through independent investigation by journalists.

That is what Kimathi Street did. There is far too much reliance on official sources in our news, even when it has been proven over and over again that powerful people sometimes use the media to hide the truth or mislead the public. The media must be skeptical.

See you next week!

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