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Speaking truth to power: Hard questions are vital in interviews

By Dex Mumo

In the world of journalism where speaking truth to power is a fundamental principle, the ability to ask tough questions is an invaluable skill. Sam Gituku, a prominent journalist for Citizen TV, has demonstrated time and again the importance of posing challenging inquiries to public figures, as exemplified by his interview with Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi on April 11, 2024.

Gituku’s unwavering determination to uncover the truth was evident as he engaged in a heated debate with CS Linturi and John Allan Namu, the CEO of Africa Uncensored, regarding the distribution of fake and substandard fertiliser. While many journalists may shy away from pressing for clear answers, Gituku fearlessly delved into the heart of the matter, leaving no room for evasion or obfuscation.

The pivotal moment during the interview came when Gituku posed a seemingly simple question to CS Linturi: “What is the opposite of fake?” This seemingly straightforward query was designed to shed light on the distinction between fake and substandard fertiliser, a matter of critical importance to the countless farmers who have suffered substantial losses due to the distribution of inferior agricultural inputs.

Gituku: What is the opposite of fake?

Linturi: Genuine

Gituku: So, is the substandard fertiliser genuine?

Linturi: This thing can only be understood by scientists when it comes to issues defining what is correct and what is not correct. The fertiliser I am talking about lacks the necessary percentages of the compounds required by a plant. People have taken this matter and politicised it.

By asking this question, Gituku cut through the rhetoric and called for accountability. He demanded a clear and honest response from CS Linturi, forcing him to confront the discrepancies between his claims and the evidence presented by investigative journalists like John Allan Namu.

The documentary “Fertile Deception,” which exposed the circulation of counterfeit government fertiliser, provided critical insights into the issue. The investigative efforts of Namu and his team shed light on the extent of the problem and the failures within the public procurement system since 2018.

Gituku’s persistence illuminated the lack of transparency exhibited by the Agriculture Cabinet Secretary and underscored the importance of journalists in seeking the truth.

In an era where misinformation and deception can easily infiltrate public discourse, journalists like Gituku play a crucial role in separating fact from fiction. They serve as guardians of the truth, ensuring that public figures are held accountable for their actions and that the public is informed about matters that affect their lives.

Tough questions, like the ones posed by Gituku, serve several essential purposes. First , they challenge those in power to defend their positions and provide evidence to support their claims. Journalists who ask tough questions act as representatives of the public, seeking clarity and transparency on their behalf.

Moreover, tough questions expose any attempts to evade responsibility or spin the truth. They force public figures to confront uncomfortable realities and encourage them to be accountable for their actions. In the case of CS Linturi, Gituku’s persistent questioning revealed the lack of proper response from the Ministry of Agriculture to the claims made by Africa Uncensored, further highlighting the need for transparency and accountability within the government.

Lastly, tough questions demonstrate the journalist’s commitment to their profession and their dedication to the public interest. By fearlessly challenging authority and demanding honest answers, journalists like Gituku become the voice of the people. They ensure that critical issues are brought to light, empowering the public to make informed decisions and fostering a culture of accountability within society.

In an age where journalism is under constant scrutiny, the importance of journalists like Sam Gituku cannot be overstated. Their unwavering dedication to asking tough questions, seeking the truth, and holding public figures accountable is essential for a thriving democracy.

Their tenacity serves as a reminder that journalism is not just about reporting facts but also about challenging those in power, ensuring transparency, and safeguarding the interests of the public.

Dex Mumo is a Kenyan journalist

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