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Governor Mutua running for Parliament: fake news or not?

So, is Machakos Governor Alfred Mutua running for Mwala parliamentary seat or not?

According to The Star, that is fake news. Because Mutua denied it. But according to the Nation, it is true. Because they found Mutua’s name on record.

Whom should readers believe?

“Fake news! Governor Mutua denies vying for Mwala MP seat,” said The Star heading on May 23.

The story by Bosco Marita acknowledged “a list purported to have originated from the IEBC [showing] Mutua among aspirants seeking MP seats in Machakos county.”

But the story categorically stated that the claims are “fake.” It added: “Mutua told this writer that he is not eyeing any seat in the August 9 elections.”

A definitive quote was furnished: “‘Fake news. I am not vying for any seat,’ Mutua said when asked to clarify the reports.”

The end.

Except it wasn’t the end if you read the Nation’s. Is it fake news if a subject denies a claim? Does that end the matter, especially in politics? Nah.

Look anywhere in the world. In some cases, candidates for political office deny they are running, before they come out actually running.

The United States is particularly notorious for this. Find any US president who didn’t deny they were running early when somebody first smelled a rat.

The political field is lined with trial balloons. Teasers will be put out in the field. Leaks will deliberately be planted in the press, to test an idea. Underlying reasons are never meant to be obvious.

What should a competent reporter do? Read the tea leaves. History teaches that reporters should not gullibly swallow a political denial, even if the denial is from the horse’s mouth, if the evidence is dubious.

The Nation ran with the evidence.

“Revealed: Governor Alfred Mutua to vie for Mwala parliamentary seat,” said the Nation’s heading May 23.

The story by Mary Wambui said that an electoral commission filing listed Alfred Ng’ang’a Mutua in the Mwala parliamentary race.

The Nation competently pointed out that Mutua later tweeted clarifying that he would not vie in the August polls “but did not say who took his name to the IEBC.” Bam!

The Nation rightly took a shot that a ghost did not list Mutua in the parliamentary race.

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