Louis Otieno, the one-time high-flying news anchor who hopped from station to station in search of good cash, yesterday spoke for the first time since the death of his girlfriend Careen Chepchumba on Valentine’s day.
Many reports have linked him to the death of the 26-year-old Kenya Power engineer, led on by a suicide note alleging extortion by the journalist, but police say they are still investigating the matter and are conducting DNA tests. Louis Otieno cut a sorry image as he explained himself out to a doubtful public and media, far away from the sharp and celebrity air he commanded.
The saga brings to the fore the less-talked about integrity issues in a media industry that demands lavish lifestyle but pays less to most journalists. Being a celebrity calls for a high level of sobriety to manage such success and finances which, it seems, is in short supply in Kenyan media.
It is interesting that the spotlight is finally shining in the dark corners of media men and women who often act like the high priests of morality. This is food for thought for media managers and journalists. There are lessons to be learnt here. Experts accuse the media and related associations such as the Kenya Union of Journalists, Media Council of Kenya as well as Media Owners Association of ignoring their members and exposing them to perilous living conditions.
They argue that life is not all about money. “There are key building blocks in life that money cannot afford to buy. But such is the traditional belief in media that when you are liquid, then everything in life is sorted out.” Many journalists are known to live beyond their means and a good number have relationship/marriage problems or engage in messy affairs for financial favours.
A media watcher who asked not to be named said media houses should have counselling sessions for their journalists to help them deal with the publicity and pride that comes with such exposure. Because of lavish lifestyles forced by their celebrity status, some are perpetually broke. Many who covered Louis Otieno bragging about his three cars – Mercedes Benz, Range Rover and unnamed brand – must have drooled at this declaration.
“I was not extorting from her. I bought her a Volkswagen and I paid it in cash,” Louis Otieno told the Star defending himself over accusations that he had been living off her late girlfriend’s money.
Careen Chepchumba was found dead in her apartment in Kilimani. While police investigations are in progress, preliminary findings show that Chepchumba was strangled. The media celebrity denies allegations that he was behind the woman’s death, saying that they never had a sexual relationship with her. But even as he defended himself in presence of his lawyer Phillip Murgor, critics say Otieno’s argument does not add up.
“How would one sacrifice his money to buy a lady a car during these tough economic times if the only thing they shared is a neighbourhood?” said a media analyst who spoke with Business Today. “It would make sense if he hit nail on the head by revealing the good times they shared instead of beating around the bush. As a matter of fact, he is still innocent until proven guilty.”