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Davido, fake fertiliser and doctors’ strike stir social media

Introduction

The report this week looks at the dynamic trending topics on social media platforms and mainstream media. They include a tragedy at Chavakali Boys High School, Mediamax, doctors’ strike, #SaveTheStandard, and the impact of investigative journalism uncovering the fake fertiliser saga.

 Chavakali Boys

One student lost his life while 32 others sustained injuries in a harrowing accident on the Kakamega-Kisumu highway involving a Chavakali Boys High School bus on the night of April 1, 2024. Kisumu Central Police Commander Peter Mulai issued a stern warning to motorists, urging heightened caution when traversing the area identified as a black spot. Regrettably, the toll of road accidents has been high, with over 1,000 lives lost since the beginning of this year alone. Following the accident, Chavakali Boys High School dominated X discussions for over six hours, while Easy Coach, the bus company involved, remained a topic of conversation for over 14 hours.


Impact on media

The loss of life and injuries sustained by students led to extensive coverage by various media outlets. Digital media broke the news of the tragedy. Mainstream media picked up the story and amplified its reach. This heightened coverage increases public awareness and may prompt discussions on potential solutions or preventive measures. On social media platforms users shared news articles, expressed condolences, and discussed the broader implications of the accident, including questions about infrastructure, enforcement of traffic laws, and school transportation safety. Social media provides a platform for real-time information dissemination and public discourses.

 #SaveTheStandard

The Standard Group has faced unwarranted attacks, with malicious attempts to tarnish its reputation. False claims, including allegations of staff illness and the purported auctioning of the media house, circulated on X, Facebook and TikTok. Manipulated front pages of The Standard newspaper were shared online. On April 3, 2024, Ken Mijungu, a news editor at the Standard Group, addressed these issues during a broadcast on KTN News, a channel under the Standard Group’s ownership. In his editorial statement, Mijungu clarified the nature of the online harassment and debunked the unfounded rumors. He affirmed that there is no truth to the claims of staff illness and reiterated that The Standard Media remains operational, with no plans of closure or auction. The mention of “Gideon Moi Auctioned” stems from ownership of the media house by Moi’s family.

Despite the slanderous campaign, the #SaveTheStandard hashtag surged to #4 on trending charts for over six hours, while “Gideon Moi Auctioned” peaked at #7.
    

Impact on media

False allegations and rumours targeting the Standard Group can potentially erode public trust in the media organisation. When media outlets are targeted with baseless attacks it leads to scepticism among audiences about the reliability and credibility of news sources. This can have a detrimental impact on the media’s ability to fulfil its role as a trusted source of information. This is an affront to media freedom in Kenya.

The situation underscores the importance of upholding journalistic independence and integrity in the face of external pressures and attacks. Media organisations must maintain transparency, accuracy, and ethical standards in their reporting to preserve their credibility and reputation. By addressing the false allegations directly and transparently, the Standard demonstrated commitment to journalistic integrity and resilience against attempts to undermine its reputation.

Mediamax

Afrobeat sensation Davido took a legal action against Mediamax Network Limited in response to the publication of an allegedly defamatory story. The article, published as an April Fool’s Day prank, falsely alleged his arrest at Jomo Kenyatta International Airport for possession of narcotics aboard his private jet while departing Kenya. Davido presented five demands to the media outlet, seeking redress for the profound damage inflicted on his name and image. He issued a stringent 48-hour ultimatum to Mediamax.


Impact on media

Publishing false or misleading information in the guise of April Fool’s Day erodes trust in the media. When audiences perceive media outlets as unreliable or sensational, the credibility of the entire industry is at stake. In retrospect, such cases lead to decreased engagement with news content by the public and a greater reliance on alternative sources for information.

The legal action taken by Davido against Mediamax Network Limited highlights the need for media organisations to adhere to ethical standards and accuracy in reporting. In cases where defamation or misinformation occurs, media outlets may face legal consequences, including costly lawsuits and damage to their reputation. This can serve as a deterrent against irresponsible journalism and encourage greater accountability.

Doctors’ strike

This is the third week since the Kenya Medical Practitioners, Pharmacists, and Dentists Union embarked on a strike. Doctors have rejected a government offer aimed at resolving the weeks-long strike which has significantly disrupted healthcare services across the country. On April 7, 2024, President William Ruto addressed the strike for the first time, urging doctors to return to work as the country faces financial challenges. The strike began on March 15.

Concerns among Kenyans persist regarding the prolonged strike and its impact, as they seek alternative options for the treatment of their sick relatives. The discussion garnered over 3.5K impression on Facebook.


Impact on media

The prolonged strike and President William Ruto’s comments have led to heightened media coverage of the issue. Media outlets have dedicated resources to reporting the strike, conducting interviews with stakeholders, and analysing the broader implications on healthcare and governance. This increased scrutiny can drive public awareness and pressure stakeholders to act and resolve the crisis.

Fake fertiliser

The DCI summoned Josiah Kariuki, CEO of Silica Booster Limited, regarding the distribution of counterfeit fertiliser nationwide. Investigative journalist John Allan Namu, co-founder of Africa Uncensored, produced a documentary titled “Fertile Deception,” that exposed the origins and extent of the fake fertiliser distribution. This documentary garnered significant coverage, notably on Citizen TV’s esteemed News Gang show on April 4, 2024, where Namu discussed the documentary’s creation process. Renewed demands for accountability emerged, primarily from opposition leaders such as Raila Odinga, who demanded the resignation of Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi. The government has accepted responsibility and pledged to compensate affected farmers.


Impact on media

Legacy media outlets can intensify their investigative efforts into similar issues of public concern, given the attention garnered by Africa Uncensored’s documentary and subsequent coverage on Citizen TV. This could lead to a renewed focus on exposing corruption or malpractice in various sectors, contributing to a more vigilant media landscape. The involvement of opposition leaders and the government’s acknowledgment of responsibility may exert pressure on legacy media to hold public officials accountable for their actions.

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