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NTV’s weird, wild account of Gen Ogolla’s death

On Friday, April 19, 2024, NTV ran an eerie story, purportedly apprising the country on burial preparations for late Chief of Defence Forces General Francis Ogolla, but in reality opening a can of worms.

Packaged by a “Senior Specials & Investigations Reporter”, one would have hoped all loose ends on what the anchor of the day introduced as “pertinent questions” regarding the death, would have been tied up before the story was released to the public. But, alas, it was not to be.

Essentially the country’s Chief Protector by virtue of his office, General Ogolla’s sudden death in a chopper crash the day before had shocked the nation. As it was wont, speculations abound on the circumstances of the crash in the context of the general’s surprising promotion a year ago.

On social media, all manner of theories were immediately unveiled, argued, and defended. Fingers were pointed, culprits identified, and conclusions made. By and large, the mainstream media restrained itself from indulging in the rumour-mill, as they deployed their best resources to find the truth, or so we hoped.

That was so until the NTV story ran, and affirmed everybody’s worst fears that there was nothing much happening in the background to confirm, debunk or present new information on the crash.

The story began by flagging “social media platforms” as the source of the claims “pointing to a conspiracy that may have claimed General Ogolla’s life.”

The chief claim imported from social media by the NTV story was that the general and his entourage were to use a different aircraft, but it was abruptly swapped at the last minute to transport an unnamed senior government official.

“Other questions and speculations that are likely to go without answers”, the story went, was why only the military chief was on the ground to oversee the launch of classrooms yet the Operation Maliza Uhalifu is multi-agency operation between the Ministry of Defence and Ministry of Interior.

“Other quarters argue that the assignment in the North Rift could have been done by any other low-ranking officer in the military,” the story concluded.

Did NTV establish for a fact or attempt to establish that General Ogolla’s aircraft was abruptly swapped? Was there evidence of any effort to reach out the Ministry of Defence to ascertain or debunk this, whether formally or informally?

Who was this senior government official who took General Ogolla’s aircraft? Did NTV undertake even the basic search on the movements of the senior government officials that day? And how many aircrafts are available for use by senior government officials?

All this information was missing in the story, but also there was no evidence of an attempt to confirm the veracity of the explosive claims. NTV simply decided to pass these claims to its viewers hoping they would do a better job of it than they had.

The second limb of the speculation was why General Ogolla was the only multi-agency team member in North Rift for the launch of the classrooms. The claim itself is manifestly a leading claim, which presupposes the conclusion that he was set up.

Why would NTV make such a serious claim without backing it up with solid pieces of information? For instance, if we were to find that all the regional National Government Administration Officers (NGAOs) did not attend the event or if their Nairobi bosses boycotted the event that would be quite something.

Finally on this claim, what is the threshold of attendance for events of the kind? NTV would have done better to juxtapose the attendance of the event to a past event of the kind. If there is a serious mismatch, it would lend a small measure of credence to the claim.

The last limb of the story was the claim by the unnamed “other quarters” to the effect that the matter of opening classrooms was too small for a CDF. Again, did NTV attempt to lay a basis for such a claim? Zero!

The overarching theme of the story as introduced by the reporter was that the circumstances of the crash pointed to a conspiracy to out General Ogolla. This is a very serious claim, yet none of the elements of the story supported it.

The story reeked of raw defiance of the settled tenets of journalism espoused in the Code of Conduct for Practice of Journalism: accuracy, fairness, and integrity. Beyond this, it was a brazen display of carelessness, laziness, and insult on the intelligence of the viewers.

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