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Amid floods gloom, first woman Air Force chief brings smiles

Introduction

Issues discussed during the week include President Ruto’s decisive leadership in Kenya’s flood crisis, the Maai Mahiu tragedy, historic appointment of Kenya’s first female Air Force commander, misinformation about Chekubati, World Press Freedom Day, impeachment of CS Mithika Linturi, and suspension of schools reopening due to floods.

Maai Mahiu

Floods ravaged Maai Mahiu, claiming the lives of over 50 people, leaving more than 90 others unaccounted for. The tragedy was triggered by relentless heavy rainfall. Fulfilling his commitment, President William Ruto deployed Kenya Defence Forces and other state agencies to expedite rescue and recovery. The incident thrust Maai Mahiu into the limelight, dominating X discussions for over 25 hours.


Impact on media

The Maai Mahiu story garnered widespread media attention. Major news outlets dedicated significant airtime and space to report the tragedy, highlighting the human toll, the environmental impact, and the rescue efforts.

The tragedy has sparked intense public discourse both locally and internationally, with many expressing condolences, sharing information, and discussing the underlying causes of the disaster. Social media platforms have been abuzz with discussions, debates, and calls for action in response to the event.

Initial media reports indicated that the tragedy was caused by a Kijabe dam that burst its walls. The claims were however dispelled by hawk-eyed netizens who called out the media for misreporting. In emergencies and calamities, the media must report factually and refrain from being sensational. The coverage also brought attention to the broader issues of disaster preparedness, and government response to emergencies. With the heightened reporting of similar issues, the media can hold government to account on effective policies and regulations governing emergency response protocols to avert future calamities.
Cabinet meeting on floods

President William Ruto convened a special Cabinet meeting dedicated to tackling the impact of the floods which have claimed over 170 lives and displaced over 185,000 individuals since March. The focus of the meeting was to deliberate on the government’s strategy in response to the crisis, amid mounting criticism regarding its perceived lack of preparedness and delayed reaction despite prior meteorological warnings. The disaster, attributed to heavy rainfall, has left a trail of devastation, including the destruction of homes, vehicles, roads, and railway tracks. The government has mobilised mitigation measures and pledged to support to the flood-affected victims. The Presidents meeting gained traction online due to the interest that Kenyans have on the impact of floods.

Impact on media

The Cabinet meeting garnered heightened media attention, resulting in expanded coverage and in-depth analysis across numerous news platforms. Journalists may delve deeper the causes of the perceived shortcomings and hold government officials accountable for their actions or lack thereof. This could lead to government implementing policies on disaster management, and allocation of resources to the affected citizens.

#ThikaRoad & Kahawa Sukari

The Kenya National Highways Authority announced the partial closure of the Thika Superhighway at the Kahawa Sukari drift. This decision was made after floods rendered the section between Kahawa Barracks and Kenyatta University inaccessible to Thika-bound traffic. The authority issued a stern warning against any attempts to use the affected part of the road. As a result of this development, #ThikaRoad became a prominent topic on X, trending for over 22 hours and reaching the eighth position in trends. Kahawa Sukari also attracted significant attention, trending for more than 24 hours.

On Facebook, the hashtag #Floods trended with 390,000 posts, while #Mafuriko garnered over 2,800 posts.


Impact on media

The partial closure of a major highway due to flooding received significant coverage. This event would be considered newsworthy due to its impact on commuters and the potential disruption to transportation and daily life.

Most media houses used social media as a source of information and provided frequent updates on alternative routes, traffic conditions, and any developments related to the closure. Online platforms and social media channels also shared real-time information including maps, images, and videos, to help commuters navigate the affected area. However, the media needs to fact-check content picked from social media. The increase of misinformation and manipulated content poses a threat to information integrity.

World Press Freedom Day

World Press Freedom Day 2024, themed ‘A Press for the Planet: Journalism in the Face of the Environmental Crisis,’ was celebrated on May 3. Media practitioners and stakeholders came together under the auspices of the Media Council of Kenya to mark the occasion. David Omwoyo, CEO of MCK, emphasised the pivotal role of journalism in conservation during this year’s commemoration. He highlighted the importance of amplifying every voice advocating for the environment and stressed the need for robust environmental advocacy and reporting. During the media summit the council launched the State of Media report 2023/2024.


Impact on media

The discussions during the commemoration of #WPFD24 called on the media to allocate resources to report on environmental issues following the recognition of journalism’s critical role in conservation. This will lead to increased public awareness of environmental challenges and potential solutions.

The focus on environmental advocacy and reporting may prompt media organisations to reassess their journalistic standards and practices in covering environmental issues. This could lead to more in-depth and accurate reporting, as well as efforts to avoid sensationalism or misinformation.

The participation of prominent media institutions like the Media Council of Kenya, the Kenya Union of Journalists, and the Kenya Editors Guild in the event signifies a collective effort to strengthen media institutions and foster collaboration within the industry. This collaboration can lead to the sharing of best practices, capacity building initiatives, and collective action to address common challenges faced by journalists and media organizations.

Gen Kahariri new CDF

President William Ruto elevated Lieutenant General Charles Muriu Kahariri to general and appointed him the new Chief of Defence Forces to succeed the late General Francis Ogolla. This appointment marks a notable shift in Kenya’s military command, garnering extensive support and well wishes. The President appointed Major General Fatuma Ahmed as the first female Air Force commander, among other changes in the military.

Impact on media

The appointment of General Kahariri as the new CDF dominated headlines across various media outlets. It’s a significant event in Kenya’s military and political landscape, drawing attention from both domestic and international news sources.

Media outlets should seek interviews or opinion pieces from experts, military personnel, and activists to provide diverse perspectives on the appointments and their significance. These interviews could offer insights into the broader societal implications, challenges ahead, and the importance of diversity and inclusion in leadership roles.

School remain closed

President William Ruto postponed the reopening of all schools until further notice. This decision comes in response to the flooding crisis triggered by the relentless heavy rains. Originally scheduled for April 29, 2024, the reopening date was later rescheduled to May 6, 2024, and then put off indefinitely.


Impact on media

The announcement received wide media coverage. It’s a significant development affecting millions of learners, parents, and educators. This event would prompt extensive coverage of the flooding crisis itself, with media outlets likely to report on the extent of the damage caused by the heavy rains, including infrastructure damage, displacement of people, and other related impacts.

Media would delve into the implications of the prolonged closure of schools on the education sector, exploring concerns such as disruption of academic calendars, potential learning loss for students, and challenges faced by teachers and educational institutions in adapting to the situation.

Given that the announcement comes from President William Ruto, there would likely be political analysis and reactions from various stakeholders, including government officials, opposition leaders, and civil society organisations. Media would cover statements, opinions, and debates surrounding the decision and its handling by the government.

Linturi’s woes

Members of Parliament voted on a motion to impeach Agriculture Cabinet Secretary Mithika Linturi following an investigation into fake fertiliser. Later, the Director of Public Participation ordered the arrest of CS Linturi and the ministry’s Principal Secretary Paul Ronoh. The news of the impeachment motion and arrest order quickly trended, accumulating over 5.9k mentions in less than 24 hours.

Impact on media

The media would lead public scrutiny and debate surrounding the actions taken against the Agriculture Cabinet Secretary and the Principal Secretary. There would likely be discussions on the effectiveness of government oversight, the prevalence of corruption in public office, and the implications for the agricultural sector.

Journalists and political analysts would delve into the political ramifications of these events. They might speculate on the future of the implicated officials, the stability of the government, and the potential for further investigations into corruption within the ministry or other government departments. This could lead to increased political tension and maneuvering, which would be closely followed by the media.

Chebukati’s health

Misinformation and manipulated photos purportedly depicting former Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission chairman Wafula Chebukati flooded TikTok, falsely asserting that he was ill and hospitalised. Some even went as far as circulating condolences messages, falsely mourning his supposed demise.


Impact on media

When false information circulates unchecked on platforms like TikTok, it erodes public trust in media and social media platforms. Users become more sceptical about the accuracy of information they encounter online. Instances like these highlight the necessity for robust fact-checking mechanisms within media organisations. It underscores the importance of verifying information before publishing or sharing it, as well as the need for platforms to implement measures to curb the spread of misinformation.

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