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Raila bodyguard abduction and why we swear by attribution

A recent Standard story about the abduction of Raila Odinga’s bodyguard flopped the test of attribution.

You should see from this failure why attribution is a journalism imperative.

The headline said, “Raila Odinga’s bodyguard speaks of 72 hours of terror after abduction”.

The July 23 news story by Isaiah Gwengi ran halfway without attribution.

It was the morning of the first day of the so-called third wave of Maandamano. President William Ruto’s government had publicly threatened to deal with opposition leaders behind the organised public protest against a litany of grievances.

The story’s intro said, “For more than 72 hours, Maurice Ogeta experienced hell after he was allegedly abducted by unknown people believed to be police officers on [July 19] morning.”

Experienced hell? According to whom, the reporter? Abducted by people believed to be police officers. Believed by whom?

Just to be sure, take faith out of reporting. Faith is the business of religion, not journalism.

Second graf: “Ogeta, who is described as ever-present in the former Prime Minister Raila Odinga’s list of most trusted aides, was arrested, harassed and held incommunicado.”

Who describes Ogeta as ever-present? Who told the reporter that he was arrested, harassed, and held incommunicado?

The first whiff of attribution came in the third graf. “For a man who has worked with the ODM leader for more than a decade, he said the 72-hour ordeal was the worst experience in his life, adding it was matter of life and death.”

Assuming it’s Ogeta who spoke about his ordeal and not ODM leader Raila (bad grammar in that sentence muddled clarity), this is the first possible indication that the story source was the victim, Ogeta.

Fourth graf: “Ogeta was abandoned in Ruai early Saturday morning after a public outcry over his alleged arrest.”

Source of this info?

The rest of the story was attributed to Ogeta only. That is too thin.

Look, without attribution, the credibility of a news story is – how shall we put this – nil.

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