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Dear reporters, your story is incomplete with only one voice

Four stories. All big. All one-sided, single-sourced tales. All mainstream media are doing it. Plain lethargy or poor staffing?

All four stories were about Kenya’s state of the economy. All were reeking of blame games.

First off were two leading stories on March 8.

One, the allegation by the Controller of Budget, Dr Margaret Nyakang’o, that she green-lighted Sh15 billion payments under duress in the last days of former President Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration.

The Daily Nation titled it, “Uhuru pressured me to sign off on Sh15bn payment, budget boss says”.

The story by Samwel Owino tossed eye-popping allegations. It recounted Dr Nyakang’o’s testimony to a parliamentary committee that Cabinet Secretary Ukur Yatani had invoked the President’s name numerous times to press her to approve huge payments.

She was pushed to approve Sh6 billion to be paid out for the UK-based equity firm, Helios, to exit Telcom Kenya, the story said. Another Sh9.2 billion was promptly required “to finance some road projects she said did not qualify” to be paid by the Treasury.

The pressure was delivered in WhatsApp messages by the Treasury Cabinet Secretary, Yatani.

Yeah, WhatsApp. It’s how Kenya now runs government.

That story ran from top to bottom with only Dr Nyakiang’o’s voice.

That same day, March 8, Yatani threw back his own stones with a sensational allegation.

“Gachagua’s Sh1.1bn demand for cars, drinks and food rejected,” said a story heading in the Business Daily.

The story by Dominic Omondi said that two days after the Supreme Court upheld William Ruto’s presidential win, Deputy President-elect Rigathi Gachagua asked for Sh300 million to purchase a fleet of cars, Sh330 million for food and drinks, Sh50 million for furniture, Sh110 for fuel and car maintenance, and Sh550 million for miscellaneous.

The Treasury paid out Sh500 million of the request, the story said.

Gachagua would disown this story days later, according to various media. But in the breaking story, Business Daily provided zero verification. The whole tale hang on Yatani. No voice from Gachagua. Or his office.

Four days later, The Star would stumble onto Gachagua’s story from the horse’s mouth — we say stumble because the story showed no evidence of independent reporting.

“Ruto funded deputy president office for 4 years – Gachagua,” said the heading on March 12.

The story by Brian Oruta said that Uhuru’s Treasury was only “trying to clean the damage they had done” to the office of the Deputy President after starving it of cash for years.

Again, this story ran with no other voice to counter or corroborate Gachagua’s reported claim.

Finally, The Standard came out with an everybody-just-calm-down story.

“We’ve got the economy back to stability, say Ruto’s economists,” said the heading March 13.

This story by Jacob Ng’etich was an important and timely story. For many weeks, media swapped stories of how the Kenyan economy during the presidential transition was running as a free for all.

Opposition-led agitation has been gaining momentum. It was about time to hear grown-up voices in the room.

The Standard’s story provided this, quoting respected voices on the status of the economy.

The President’s economic adviser, David Ndii, said that inflation was at 9.6 per cent last November, and that it had come down to 9 per cent by January. It should get even better and reach 7 per cent by end of June, the story said.

Treasury Principal Secretary Kamau Thugge said Ruto inherited a Sh1.1 trillion deficit, but his administration’s “quick intervention” had brought this down to Sh834 billion, the story said.

By the time Uhuru was leaving the door, the international financial markets didn’t want to touch Kenya, Ruto’s men said. But now purse strings are starting to loosen up.

This is all very nice talk, backed up by cited data. But the story gave no counter opinion, which is suspect.

As anyone who knows will tell you, if you have two economists in a room, you’re likely to hear two opinions about a matter. If you have 10, you’ll have 10 opinions.

Running with only the voices of Ruto’s economists denied this important story an imperative requisite for credibility.

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