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JK Live sanitised bloody record of former Mungiki leader Maina Njenga

By Dex Mumo

Jeff Koinange of Citizen TV hosted former Mungiki leader Maina Njenga on November 15, 2023. Many Kenyans condemned Jeff, and rightly so, for providing airtime to a former ‘terrorist’ on national television, mainly due to the show’s extensive viewership.

Such interviews may be perceived as sanitising or downplaying the severe crimes associated with individuals like Maina Njenga.

Considering the agenda-setting function of the news media, Citizen TV gave Njenga a chance to not only cleanse his past but also to mock the victims of the terror gang that he led for the first two decades of the new millennium.

Even before I thought of writing this article, the JKL interview had raised ethical concerns central to the journalistic profession from viewers.

Sometimes, the decisions of the media can appear subtle until they are closely examined for their impact and meaning. That is why the media must be vigilant when hosting some people, especially those involved in crimes of the magnitude of Mungiki leader Maina Njenga.

Some will justify that Njenga is no longer leader of Mungiki. But, while the concept of redemption and personal transformation is significant, journalists must balance the desire to shed light on some stories with the need for objectivity and a comprehensive representation of multiple perspectives.

Let me justify why I, like many other Kenyans, think Citizen TV sanitised Njenga. During the interview, the ex-Mungiki leader shared his perspective on his past involvement in criminal activities and his present efforts towards peace and reconciliation.

Maina Njenga acknowledged his role as a former Mungiki leader, having led the gang for approximately two decades. He assured the viewers that the gang no longer exists while highlighting his current leadership position in another organisation called ‘The Amani Sasa Foundation’, which he termed as ‘peaceful’ seeking.

He enthusiastically reported that the foundation aims to unite people and resolve conflicts.

Unless Maina Njenga is invited alongside a citizen whose family members were butchered by the Mungiki gang, the interview remains as lacking objectivity and impartiality.

It was also evident from the show that Maina Njenga did not show enough remorse for his past actions, given that the memories of the atrocities committed by the Mungiki are still fresh among the victims.

The controversy surrounding this interview raises pertinent questions about the role of the news media in providing a platform for individuals with criminal backgrounds.

As the public engages in passionate discussions about the ethics of this interview, it serves as an opportunity for media organisations and journalists to reflect on their responsibility to society.

To say the least, Jeff Koinange’s interview with Maina Njenga in which he fronted his new role functioned to launder his past. The Fourth Estate must consider that upholding the principles of accuracy, fairness, impartiality, and justice is crucial for maintaining public trust and ensuring journalism continues serving as a justice crusader.

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