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Legend Kiptum and witchcraft that is Kenya’s media

No one dies a natural death in Kenya. No one.

They are poisoned, bewitched, or murdered, or all the three.

And death in Kenya’s media is always ‘untimely.’

The real witchcraft is how simple Who-When-Where-Why-How stories of death quickly morph into a conspiracy theory tales. The real witchcraft is how these conspiracy theories of witchcraft and poisoning and murder that surface in the social media every time someone dies in Kenya are quickly laundered by mainstream media into ‘clean’ stories.

Kelvin Kiptum – a distilled personification of Kipchoge Keino and Eliud Kipchoge – is dead. Here at the Mediascape desk we have mourned young hero the only way we do not know how – without words.

We wordlessly followed the wailing crowds, and only grew alarmed when the emotional wailing in the social media quickly morphed into something more disturbing – vitriol, hatred, and conspiracy-laden rumour mongering.

We went to bed hoping that the vitriolic rumour mongering and conspiracy theories surrounding Kiptum’s ‘untimely’ demise that lit up the social media would remain underground, but woke up to this:

“Police arrest three of four men who visited Kiptum’s home days before deadly crash.”

“Keiyo South OCPD Abdullahi Dahir said they were persons of interest and were grilling the three to establish their motive.” That was The Star

4 quizzed after death of star athlete.” Daily Nation.

The conspiracy theories quickly spread beyond Kenyan borders to appear on the other side of the Atlantic where the world was closely following.

“Police arrest four people who visited marathoner Kelvin Kiptum’s home before his road crash,” reported The Independent in the UK.

Petty gossip churned out in Kenya’s social media just went international.

Pray, how did the conspiracy theorists in social media sneak past our heavily fortified mainstream media gates and make it to the headlines?

For, indeed, our gates in the media are among the most fortified in the world – from the writer to the news editor’s gate, then at the chief sub’s, the sub, the revise and the quality editor’s desk – all this time under the looming gaze of the managing editor.

Perhaps the time has come to overhaul the gatekeeping in our news desks.

Barely 24 hours later, we crept back to the gates to find thoroughly embarrassed gatekeepers, this time admitting that they let in petty gossip, and locked out the facts about Kiptum’s death.

It turned out that the four men that conspiracy theorists sneaked past the gatekeepers were not exactly ‘strangers;’ they actually had been welcomed by Kiptum’s father and wife, and even shared a meal.

And just like that a conspiracy theory that the papers helped fan collapsed!

One would have thought that at this point someone in our media houses would have got back to their senses and pulled down the plug on this rumour laundering business.

It didn’t happen. Instead, we took the conspiracy theorising to the next level: “New twist as DCI grill four men who visited marathoner’’ parents.” The Standard.

For the uninitiated, ‘twist’ is our media’s name for conspiracy theory.

So, the folks at Mombasa Road twisted and twisted: “Kambio also denied allegations that they introduced themselves as State House reps.”

Pray, how, in the name of Jehovah Wanyonyi did ‘allegations’ even make it from the rumour mills on social media to mainstream news?

It is our humble submission here at the Mediascape, that the mainstream media is increasingly becoming a rumour-laundering machine repackaging social media petty gossip and fake news as ‘clean’ news.

Before we go, a quick quote from our friends at the BBC: “Trust in the humans presenting the news has dropped to an all-time low…The scepticism around news presenters as independent arbiters of truth is an unusual modern phenomenon, with many choosing to get their news instead from individual creators or influencers.”

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