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Missed mark: Standard ‘special report’ that was anything but

On March 3 the Sunday Standard kicked off a four day “Special Report” on the infamous March 2, 2006, raid at the media house, promising explosive details on the planning and execution of the attack.

Narrated by a veteran, former crime editor at Nation Stephen Muiruri, the special report was not quite special.

The kickers were heavy on promise than what was eventually delivered, the text heavy on context than new details, the flow awful and the writer lost himself in the story.

The first report fared well; a tantalising read of how the newshound was woken up from sleep to cover a raid he had already been tipped on by his police sources. Reluctantly, he drove back to work to cover the unfolding raid which defined President Mwai Kibaki’s first term in office.

The second report picked up from where the first left, but introduced a State House meeting which planned the raid. No sooner had the meeting been introduced, attendants named, and roles assigned than the story took a different tangent.

The next 25-plus paragraphs were wasted on a long history which formed the context for the raid, but which had only recently been told by the writer in a tribute to former Nairobi police boss King’ori Mwangi.

Again, when he came back to the State House meeting, it was to gloss over the details of the meeting before delving into the power squabbles in police leadership at the time.

In the third report, Muiruri introduced two Armenian brothers into the saga but failed to disclose their Kenyan hosts. Again, the story degenerated into a catalogue of their dubious activities in Nairobi before revisiting their role in the raid.

Despite the heavy undertones in the context, it turned out from their story the only value the Armenians added to the raid was to come up with the idea of wearing hoods to cover the officers’ faces. They also coordinated the attack on the ground.

Muiruri then regurgitated the public information regarding the reactions to the raid, before he revisited the Arturs’ role in the dying moments of the article with a speculative conclusion:

“It appeared the Arturs were in Kenya as drug traffickers. The business tag was just a camouflage.”

The last of the long-winded reports recounted the police leadership fallout that ensued after the raid, again, repeating what was in public domain.

The verbose repetitions and the ego trips aside, the special report exposed the downside of the oft-sneered camaraderie between crime reporters and police sources.

Muiruri confessed he had prior knowledge of the infamous raid which rattled Kibaki’s regime to the core. “We are working on a major security operation that will shock the entire world,” he quoted his police source telling him, five days before the raid.

Muiruri claimed he did not know the nature and nitty gritty of the operation but betrays this claim with the following statement:  “Instantly, I warned the police chief that he and the government were literally throwing a stone on a beehive by contemplating raiding a media house.”

The cat was already out of the bag; he knew that the government planned a raid…. a raid on a media house, not media houses. But he goes further and says after nagging the officer, he squeezed a bit more information from him when he disclosed that powerful government officials were unhappy with the Standard Group.

It was now no longer about the media, but specifically the Standard Group. The country’s top crime editor knew a major security operation was due on the country’s oldest media house, and what did he do about it?

In the article, he says he kept it all to himself. “I kept my mouth shut and waited for the news to unfold. Moreover, the details I had been given were too sketchy.”

If he wrote the story, he felt, police would withdraw from the operation and charge him in court with filing an alarming report. But was this the only thing that he could have done with the information?

If he had tipped the Standard leadership of the impending raid, would it have made a difference? What impact would that have had on his relationship with his police sources?

These are indeed serious ruminations which should have weighed heavily on him, and in the reports as well but Muiruri chose to gloss over them as if what had happened was normal.

In the reports, Muiruri was the saint who vouched for everything good and rejected the bad. He was the prophet who said things which came to pass. More often than not, he lost himself in his own story, heavily quoting himself.

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