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Priest with sex case, DJ arrested for murder and media abuse of anonymity

The “smart people” who read The Star know him as Fr Abednego. The newspaper splashed his story on the front page on March 15 under the screaming headline, “Catholic priest arrested, charged with defilement.”

Fr Abednego was charged in Thika, where principal magistrate Stella Atambo ordered his detention for 14 days pending determination of his bond application.

The man of God is charged with defiling a girl between 2022 and August last year, The Star reported. “The priest is based out of Nairobi and rented a house in Nairobi where he lived with a woman who, according to the investigating officer, was his wife.”

Fr Abednego is alleged to have known the victim, whose school fees he paid, since 2017 and lived with her together with his wife. The priest and the wife separated early this year.

Lion Place explained helpfully that Catholic priests are not allowed to marry due to a long-standing tradition called clerical celibacy but threw this point into confusion by reporting that: “According to papers filed in court, the two have been legally married, having gone through an elaborate marriage ceremony under the Kikuyu customary law in April 2016.”

Ahem, if a Catholic priest is not allowed to marry by church practice, then he is incompetent to be “legally married” under any custom or law. Grab a hurrying lawyer around Kencom or anywhere in town and he will quickly lecture you that Fr Abednego’s purported “elaborate marriage” is null and void ab initio.

Is the priest still in good standing with the Vatican, following (or prior to) his big ruracio? Lion Place didn’t find out.

At the end of Fr Abednego’s 14 days in custody, The Star published an update headlined, “Catholic priest accused of defilement detained 12 days”. Magistrate Atambo extended his stay in custody.

Who is Fr Abednego? That, in fact, is not his name. The pseudonym was invented by Lion Place. Why was the priest’s identity hidden? The Star did not bother to explain to its “smart people”.

A priest is charged in open court with rape of a child. He pleads not guilty to the charge and applies for bond. The Star reporter is in court and has access to documents on the case. But the media house decides to throw a blanket of anonymity over the priest. Why?

A similar story was reported by Citizen TV on March 24. “A prominent Kenyan DJ and three police officers are among seven suspects arrested in connection with the death of a DCI officer based at Dagoretti police station,” news anchor Victoria Rubadiri said.

Reporter Ben Kirui told viewers that, “The fatal assault incident that has put one popular Kenyan DJ in trouble occurred around this place near Kikuyu police station.” The unnamed DJ and his crew were going home at dawn on March 16 after performing at a club in Kikuyu when Inspector Felix Kelian’s car hit his car from behind in a minor accident.

“The DJ and his crew reportedly attacked Inspector Kelian; the attack left the detective complaining of abdominal pain,” Citizen TV reported. He was rushed to hospital and died a week later.

“Following Kelian’s death, police arrested the DJ and six others, among them three police officers attached to Kikuyu police station. Officers held include Khadija Abdi Wako, Sammy Rotich Jerono, and Agnes Kerubo Mugo.”

The DJ was not named. Why? Was it fair to identify the police officers arrested with the “prominent DJ” but cover him and his crew with anonymity? That is bias.

The identities of persons in the news is a core element of accuracy and truth telling in journalism. Names (the Who) are basic facts of a story. Whose interest does anonymity serve?

The identities of children and adult victims of sexual offences cannot be published, primarily to protect them from stigma. And The Star did that for Fr Abednego’s alleged victim. But there is no reason for hiding the identity of the alleged perpetrator – unless publishing the name might lead to identification of the victim.

An accused person is innocent until proven guilty. Court procedures are public events, unless the court decides otherwise in certain cases. Why do journalists feel that certain accused persons – the Fr Abednegos and Prominent DJs – should be protected from the public glare?

See you next week?

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