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If it bleeds, it leads: Murders, Airbnbs and anxieties of women

Introduction

In this illuminating trend analysis report spanning January 15 to 21, 2024, we look at the dynamic currents of digital discourses. The report looks at captivating stories that permeated the online spaces and led to conversations offline. From the resonating echoes of Airbnb and Stop Killing Women campaign, to the nuanced narratives of Rita Waeni and Roysambu, and the Supreme Court decision to bar ‘the Grand Mullah’.

1. Airbnbs & #StopKillingWomen

The term “Airbnb” surged to the #2 trending spot on X and amassed over 30,000 tweets over a span of 21 hours. This surge in online activity followed the tragic incidents of two women losing their lives in separate incidents within short-stay accommodations in Nairobi. In the wake of these distressing events, a palpable sense of fear and vulnerability has taken hold among a segment of Kenyan women, compelling them to call for a boycott of meeting men in Airbnbs.

The hashtag #STOPKILLINGWOMEN emerged as a powerful rallying cry, garnering 10,000 tweets that featured testimonials and shared anxieties. This unified chorus of women coming forward to narrate their apprehensions about encountering men in secluded settings, such as Airbnb properties, underscored the gravity of the situation and the urgent need for awareness and action.


Impact on media

The media may need to investigate the circumstances surrounding the incidents, giving a better perspective and stop the rumours mills of social media. The media must be professional when reporting on such sensitive matters. Traditional media outlets may increasingly rely on social media for insights, source of stories, testimonials, and public sentiment to shape their coverage.

2. Rita Waeni & Roysambu

The woman who tragically lost her life on the night of January 14, 2024, and whose body was dismembered in a short-stay rental in Roysambu, Nairobi, was identified as 20-year-old Rita Waeni Muendo. Rita was a student at Jomo Kenyatta University of Agriculture and Technology. In a statement released on Wednesday, the grieving family revealed that the suspect had demanded Sh500,000 from Rita’s father on Sunday morning, just before the heart breaking news of their daughter’s demise made the headlines. Detectives took swift action on Tuesday, interrogating a man they believed to be behind the heinous crime. The suspect was apprehended at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport but he turned out to be the wrong guy after an identification parade.


Impact on media

News outlets that broke this story enjoyed increased audiences as news consumers sought more information. The emotive elements, such as the family statement and swift law enforcement action, contributed to the story’s news appeal. The sensational reporting and the tragic nature of the incident, coupled with specific details about the victim, are likely to hold the attention of audiences for long. The public tends to be drawn to dramatic stories of crime.

3. Kwambox, Nigerians & #BoycottKiss100

Kenyans on social media strongly criticised Kiss FM radio presenter Sheila Kwamboka, widely known as Kwambox, after a video clip of her dancing in the studio triggered controversy. Her comment fuelled to the fire: “Even if you guys are not feeling Nigerians this week, I don’t care,” she said. Initially perceived as harmless, her comment took a more contentious turn, particularly considering the recent attacks on women, attributed by some to Nigerian men. The video clip shared on the radio station’s social media platforms was promptly taken down due to the wave of criticism accusing Kwambox of insensitivity. This backlash was intensified by the backdrop of the tragic murder of 20-year-old Rita Waeni Mwendo in Roysambu, Nairobi.

Kwambox dominated social media space and spurred conversations reaching the #1 trending spot with 29,000 tweets  for over nine hours. Simultaneously, “Nigerians” trended at #6 spot, amassing 50,000 tweets and remaining a trending topic for more than 21 hours.


Impact on media

The incident underscores the heightened level of accountability that media personalities and journalists face in the digital age. Social media platforms serve as a powerful tool for public scrutiny, and individuals in the media industry must be conscious of their words and actions to avoid controversy and backlash.

The rapid spread of criticism on social media and the subsequent removal of the controversial video highlights the transformative impact of social media in shaping media narratives. Public sentiment can swiftly influence the decisions made by media outlets, emphasising the need for a proactive and responsive approach to audience feedback.

The incident contributes to shaping public expectations of responsible journalism. Audiences are increasingly demanding transparency, accountability, and ethical behaviour from media personalities.  The incident reflects the evolving dynamics of media, where traditional broadcasting and online platforms intersect.

4. Supreme Court & Grand Mullah

Senior Counsel Ahmednasir Abdullahi stirred a social media storm, capturing the spotlight for over 21 hours, following his outspoken response to the Supreme Court’s decision to prohibit him and his law firm from appearing before the apex court. Using his social media platforms, the self-styled Grand Mullah proudly labelling the ban as “a badge of honour.” The Supreme Court’s administrative decision, revealed through a press release obtained by The Media Observer, disclosed that the seven judges unanimously agreed to bar Ahmednasir and his law firm due to his incessant attacks on the judges.

During this period, the Supreme Court dominated online discussions with 130,000 tweets, while the terms “Grand Mullah” and “Ahmednasir” also trended for more than 21 hours.


Impact on media

The prominence on X of lawyer Ahmednasir’s response emphasises the role of social media as a direct communication channel for public figures. The mainstream media while using content on social media should focus on the issues, provide the facts, and avoid any sensationalism that might undermine media credibility.

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