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Don’t hesitate, go out and deliver award-winning exposé on shoestring

Two social workers at Mama Lucy Kibaki Hospital in Nairobi were on September 6 found guilty of smuggling and selling babies. They will be sentenced on September 26.

“Fred Makallah and Selina Owuor’s dealings in the lucrative underworld business of trafficking children would have remained unknown were it not for an exposé by the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC) that Nairobi senior principal magistrate Esther Kimilu relied on to convict them,” The Standard reported.

You remember the exposé by BBC Africa Eye titled, “The baby stealers”? The international broadcaster broke the story in November 2020 after a year-long investigation.

Good journalism produces results. But all investigative journalism doesn’t have to take a year, with the implied high costs and risks.

On September 4, the London-based online publication Open Democracy carried an investigation detailing how Facebook’s former content moderation firm, Sama, allegedly shielded one of its employees accused of raping two colleagues in the Nairobi office.

The US-based tech firm laid off all 260 of its content moderators in Kenya in March, after ending its contract with Facebook.

One of the women alleging rape is a South African who moved to Nairobi to work for Sama in 2021 and lived in Imara Daima. “She says that weeks later, she was raped by a colleague who lived nearby and had come to her apartment in what appeared to be a friendly visit.”

She reported the attack to the company and was assisted by Sama’s inhouse counsellor to go to hospital. But a senior manager “told her not to involve the police,” Open Democracy reported.

Sama’s global service delivery vice-president, Annepeace Alwala, told the publication the woman voluntarily withdrew the rape complaint against the colleague. But the woman said that was a lie.

A second woman claimed the same man raped her on September 11, 2022. She reported to the police. “The senior officials were not happy that I filed charges because they wanted to handle it internally,” she said. Two months later, she was “falsely” accused of coming to work drunk and summarily dismissed.

The alleged rapist briefly fled to Uganda but returned to Nairobi and moved to another job. Police said they were unable to arrest him because they had no idea what he looked like. Open Democracy located him and gave police his details. The cops are yet to act.

On September 11, The Star broke the story of hundreds of police officers injured in the line of duty who are still pursuing compensation from their employer. The paper interviewed some of them for the report.

The Star’s investigation shows that close to 1,000 police officers left with serious injuries while on duty are enduring psychological distress and a deepening feeling of neglect as state agencies responsible for their compensation have put them on an unending pursuit,” journalist Gordon Osen reported.

Nation journalist Simon Ciuri went to the famous Ndarugo quarries in Juja, Kiambu County, and exposed how “building stone fraudsters posing as genuine quarry owners, cashiers and managers continue to mint millions from innocent buyers who flock quarries to buy stones in the race to own houses outside Nairobi where land is relatively cheaper” (August 16).

In a piece calling for more collaboration between newsrooms and academia on August 19, media researcher and Nation columnist Dr Njoki Chege may have created a wrong impression about investigative journalism.

“Investigative reporting, in its very nature, is a tedious, time and resource consuming endeavour that many Kenyan newsrooms can barely afford in these uncertain economic times,” she wrote.

“Given the low willingness to pay for news in Kenyan audiences, sometimes the business case for investigative journalism is hard to defend.”

True. Certain complex investigations like those of BBC Africa Eye, or the memorable exposés by Citizen TV or NTV, fall in the category Njoki describes. But not all investigative journalism is by nature tedious, and indefensibly time and resource consuming.

In fact, many of the submissions that win the Annual Journalism Excellency Awards organised by the Media Council of Kenya involve investigations that are not necessarily complicated or costly. Some come from small, struggling media houses.

So, do not be afraid. Start from where you are. You can deliver an award-winning exposé on a shoestring budget – and get justice for the down trodden or cause impactful policy change. Or move the state to save injured cops chasing their compensation for years. Go for it!

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