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Madowo, Tallam clash over Ruto as NMG independence debated


The report covers incidents that trended on social media platforms between January 29 and February 4, 2024. The report looks at the impact of the stories online and the traction they attracted as well as their impact on the media. The trending topics include Ecowas, Super Metro, Khalwale and Toto, Larry, Posta Kenya, Embakasi & Epra, Dear Aga Khan and Nation Media, Free my Passport, and Charles Ouda and Ciru.

Khalwale & Toto

Kakamega Senator Boni Khalwale gained widespread attention on social media when he shared the tragic news of the demise of his long-time farmhand. The dedicated caretaker, who had faithfully served at the senator’s homestead for 24 years, met his end when he was fatally injured by a bull named Inasio, regularly used by Khalwale in bullfighting competitions. Kizito Moi Amukune, responsible for herding the bull for the past five years, died at the senator’s residence in Malinya, Kakamega County.

However, Kakamega businessman Toto Shimanyula raised serious allegations, suggesting that Senator Khalwale may have intentionally caused the caretaker’s death and then attempted to attribute it to his prized bull. Detectives in the county initiated an investigations. The autopsy indicated Amukune was killed by the bull.

Khalwale trended at #5 with an impressive 13,000 tweets over a span of more than 21 hours. Toto garnered significant online attention as well.

Impact on media

The story’s high visibility on social media, with trending hashtags and significant tweet volumes, indicated increased engagement and visibility for the platforms involved. This led to higher user activity, more discussions, and increased traffic to news websites covering the story. Conflicting narratives and serious allegations introduce challenges in verifying information. Media outlets may face difficulties in providing accurate and reliable reporting as they navigate through the varying accounts of the incident. Fact-checking becomes crucial to maintain journalistic integrity.

Larry Madowo

CNN journalist Larry Madowo dominated social media discussions, securing the top spot with 34K tweets for over 19 hours. The buzz was ignited when Emmanuel Talam, the Press Secretary of the Presidential Communication Service, engaged in an X spat with Madowo after the journalist questioned President William Ruto’s apparent inconsistency, pointing out his attendance of the Italy-Africa Summit despite previous opposition to African leaders participating in similar gatherings en masse. Madowo’s query triggered a swift response from Talam, who urged the journalist to read Ruto’s speech at the meeting before passing judgment without factual information. Unyielding, Madowo challenged Talam, a one-time editor at KTN, that he was in no position to lecture him on journalism. President Ruto attended the event as the chairperson of the Committee of African Heads of State and Government on Climate Change.

Impact on media

The public exchange on social media provides insight into the relationship between media personalities and political figures. Depending on the audience’s perspective, this incident can impact public trust in media entities, with some seeing Madowo as a journalist unafraid to challenge authority and others viewing Talam’s response as a defense against perceived bias.

The incident highlights the influence of political figures on media narratives. Talam’s response and Madowo’s critique illustrate the ongoing struggle between political entities and journalists over control of public narratives. This can lead to discussions about the autonomy of the media in shaping public discourses.

Talam’s call for Madowo to read Ruto’s speech before criticizing raises questions about the challenges journalists face in maintaining their independence. This incident may prompt discussions about the pressures on journalists to conform to certain narratives or face pushback from political figures.Talam’s insistence on reading Ruto’s speech before passing judgment highlights the importance of media literacy and fact-checking.

Posta Kenya

The nation’s postal corporation embraced Artificial Intelligence to enhance its services. However, it unwittingly became the focal point of social media mockery and criticism when it shared a promotional poster on X. The AI-generated image featured models with peculiar anomalies, particularly two of them having three hands each. This unintended result sparked scepticism among netizens regarding the credibility of the communication team behind the campaign. Posta deleted the image.

Impact on media

Social media played a crucial role in amplifying the incident, with users sharing and commenting on the peculiarities of the promotional poster. This rapid dissemination of information on platforms such as X, Facebook and Instagram highlights the speed at which social media can influence public opinion and shape narratives.

#DearAgaKhan & Nation Media Group

The trending hashtag #DearAgaKhan gained traction due to widespread allegations against Nation Media Group as suppressing independent journalism in favour of political interests. The catalyst for this online movement was the emergence of a voice audio clip online, purportedly featuring NTV’s Smriti Vidyarthi during an internal discussion. In the clip, Smriti is accused of making critical remarks against Azimio leader Raila Odinga, raising concerns about biased reporting within NMG. The accusations against the media firm also revolved around the perceived lack of adherence to the Media Council Act (2013), which mandates balanced political news coverage and demands fair and accurate representation of all perspectives. The hashtag #DearAgaKhan, under which NMG trended, directly addresses the owner of Nation Media Group, His Highness the Aga Khan.

Impact on media

The allegations of suppressing independent journalism and favouring specific political interests can erode public trust in a media organisation. Trust is a critical asset for media outlets, and any perception of bias or compromise in editorial independence can have long-lasting consequences.

NMG’s reputation may be adversely affected, especially if the accusations gain widespread attention and are not effectively addressed. Reputation is crucial for media organisations, and damage to it can impact audience loyalty, advertising partnerships, and overall credibility.

The incident will likely lead to increased scrutiny of the editorial independence of media organisations, both in Kenya and globally. Stakeholders, including audiences, regulatory bodies, and advocacy groups, may demand more transparency and accountability from media outlets.

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