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Olomide, Mungiki, KCPE, edible oil: Our journalism is losing battle for truth

Rhumba mega-star Koffi Olomide on December 9 staged what Nairobi’s finest copywriters touted as a “mesmerising celebration of music, unity, and positivity”.

Not news. The news is that Koffi had been given 12 hours to pay an alleged debt of nearly Sh10 million or the show would be stopped.

Who was trying to stop Le Grand Mopao’s “reggae”? Nsana Production, a promotion firm that said Koffi owed them from a failed 2016 show, the Daily Nation reported. That was when the maestro was thrown out of Kenya for allegedly kicking one of his female dancers at JKIA.

Lawyers for Nsana wrote a demand letter “seen by the Nation” threatening to disrupt Koffi’s show if he didn’t pay.

What did Le Grand Mopao have to say about the matter? The Daily Nation story did not have the musician’s voice. Or a word from his handlers or the organisers of his tour. The paper simply reproduced a law firm’s demand letter. Did Kimathi Street try to verify Nsana’s claims? No.

Bad journalism. One-sided story. Someone mentioned in an adverse context was denied a chance to respond to his accusers. Not fair.

In contrast, the Star carried a story on the same subject covering three sources: 1) Nsana Production; 2) Koffi’s lawyers Conrad Law Advocates dismissing the debt allegations as “frivolous, vexatious, and without merit or substance”; and 3) Aces & Light Company Limited, organiser of the event saying Koffi’s show was on.

We leave Le Grand Mopao. On November 23, women lawmakers from Mt Kenya region addressed the press alleging resurgence of Mungiki.

Citizen TV reported that, “Women Members of Parliament from Mt Kenya say they will not tolerate any attempts to bring back the proscribed Mungiki group, or any other similar organisations, in the country, as they remember the terror and pain caused by Mungiki, which ranged from forced circumcision to rape, intimidation, extortion, and killings among other atrocities.”

Two weeks later, on December 6, Deputy President Riggy G said the same thing. In fact, Riggy G and Interior CS Kithure Kindiki first made the claim in May, accusing “some leaders of allegedly enlisting the services of Mungiki to destabilise the government,” NTV reported.

But is there “resurgence of Mungiki” in Mt Kenya? What does the media know? Mungiki’s legacy of gruesome violence and extortion are well documented. Is this happening today, or is the alleged “resurgence” sheer propaganda to achieve certain political ends in Mt Kenya?

Immediately after the usual celebrations following the release of KCPE results, uproar shook the country over claims of irregularities. Opposition leader Raila Odinga “waded” into the controversy, sensationally stating that the reported errors arose from tender wars around printing of the exam. The media, of course, gave the allegations prominent coverage.

The government denied this. Appearing before the National Assembly Education Committee, Education CS Ezekiel Machogu said the ministry had ordered a forensic audit.

“Mr Machogu told MPs that this year’s anomalies of assigning different grades to identical marks were reported on the SMS platform messages but clarified that there were no such anomalies in the official results on the Knec portal and in the printouts sent to schools,” the Daily Nation reported on December 8.

So, who is telling the truth, Raila or Machogu? What are people supposed to believe? What’s the role of journalism here?

And then there is the widely reported imported edible oil “scandal”. The Standard stated in an editorial on December 8, that: “The Kenya Bureau of Standards (KEBS) has made an about-turn and given imported edible oil at the centre of controversy a clean bill of health. On what basis, one wonders, did KEBS first declare the oil unfit for human consumption, and what has changed in the short period of time to make it safe for human consumption?”

The Daily Nation had carried a similar editorial the previous day, asking the same questions and calling for a “thorough probe.”

But what does the media independently know about this “scandal”, apart from the claims of politicians and the flip-flops of KEBS?

State mandarins and politicians lie all the time. The media trumpets the lies. And then steps back to call for a “thorough probe” instead of holding power to account by independently finding out the truth. Or, as in the case of Le Grand Mopao, journalists grab some claim and run off to town with it as the “truth”.

Do you see the point we are trying to make here?

See you next week!

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