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You be judge: Is the media openly biased against Riggy G?

The Standard last week carried the headline: “Leave me alone, Rigathi Gachagua tells journalists”. The Star had a story where former Nyeri Town MP Ngunjiri Wambugu was reported to have “…questioned the route the media had taken to highlight Gachagua’s controversial remarks since he took the oath of office.”

Both stories had one common denominator:  A perception that the media is not being fair to Deputy President Rigathi Gachagua. Fairness is a golden rule of media ethics.

Wambugu said the media was involved in a “well-calculated move to turn him (the DP) into a laughing stock; to caricature the DP’ and portray him as “a political buffoon.” The media tended to only carry those stories that made people laugh at him.

These are serious allegations. And it is our job here at Britam Centre to be on the look out for even the remotest chance that the golden rule of fairness has been flouted.

Let’s start with Gachagua’s concerns. In an interview on Citizen TV on October 2, and in a public function earlier on, the DP accused journalists of constantly misreporting him and portraying him in bad light from the moment he was unveiled as Kenya Kwanza’s presidential running mate.

The second most powerful man in Kenya said he has had enough with media: “I’m appealing to journalists to leave me alone.”

The DP had one last piece of advice for us: “When I say something, listen keenly.” Another serious charge right there, that we have been doing selective listening to the DP; that we hear and report what we want.

Ladies and gentlemen of the media, we stand accused of biased reporting, of pushing a certain narrative about Kenya’s Deputy President.

But at what point did the media fallout with the DP? Well, the man says the media did not like him from the word go – when he became Kenya Kwanza’s presidential running mate.

What seems to have been the straw that finally broke the camel’s back was coverage of the DP’s remarks in Baringo about the shamba system.

The remarks started uproar. Controversy is a big story anytime, and the DP suddenly found himself on the defensive. The narrative out there painted the DP an ignominious leader that had no clue about the urgent need to conserve what is remaining of our badly damaged forests.

It got worse when the media suddenly started shadowing the DP, going through his every public comment with a toothpick, culminating with an article on The Standard headlined: “Is DP speaking himself into infamy or sets out hard truths?”

Now, while the headline seemed balanced the story was not. Instead, The Standard gave a long list of Riggy G’s perceived “infamies” but no mention of his perceived “hard truths”.

Granted, Riggy G would most probably have told the reporter to go hang if he tried to get a comment for the article. But an interview with the DP’s closest allies would have balanced the article.

Or the writer would have attempted to write about the “hard truths” that Riggy G speaks side by side with the perceived “infamies”, like Mark Oloo did in his piece, “We need more frank speakers like Rigathi Gachagua”.

But as things stand right now, Riggy G might be justified in accusing the media of unfairness.

Let’s look at what the DP said in Baringo: “We had a shamba system where people were given land, planted maize, took care of trees until they were mature and then left…we will have a plan of cultivating in forests while taking care of trees. Good thing about trees is when they mature no one asks you to leave.”

But what did the media report? Journalists made the public believe the DP was the newest threat to Kenya’s forests, after illegal loggers.

Granted, the shamba system has a bad history in Kenya. But, hey, to paint no less a person than Kenya’s Deputy President as a visiting Martian who is ignorant of the urgent need to protect our forests is to caricature him almost to the point of character assassination.

It gets worse when we begin shadowing the DP.  The Standard was on Riggy G’s case again last week, with columnist Leonard Khafafa accusing the DP of being “suffused with the passion of his convictions”, which loosely translates as Riggy G is in love with the sound of his voice.

Across the page on Palaver, The Standard ran a piece where a reader was politely advising Riggy G to shut up. On October 7, The standard was on the DP’s case again: “Riggy G’s other name is ‘state capture,’ and that’s not putting words in his mouth,” wrote columnist Peter Kimani.

“And the lights zoomed in and out to show an outdoor fire where Riggy G, in a flowery shirt that suggested his fashion sense is flourishing, declared his home sits on the foot of Mount Kenya, which instantly took him to the recent, bruising General Election.”

Some, like former MP Wambugu, will argue that Kimani is guilty of attempting to make Kenya’s Deputy President appear like a buffoon.

And there are some, like us, who will be willing to arbitrate between Riggy G and the media, to clear any mistrust – real or imagined.

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