Aga Khan orders ethnic diversity audit at Nation Media

The media house has previously come under scrutiny over what critics see as infiltration of vested interests into its editorial functions

High Highness the Aga Khan, Nation Media Group (NMG)’s majority shareholder, has ordered an ethnic diversity audit of its senior management team in Kenya in a move seen as aimed at improving its governance and restoring public confidence in the country’s largest media house.

Sources have told Business Today that a consultant hired by the Aga Khan is expected to complete the exercise within 60 days and that the report will be used to help the media firm reflect the face of Kenya.

While it may not have directly influenced the decision, the move comes at a time there are reports of turf wars at the media house with editors coalescing into camps to push through their respective agenda.

According to our sources, depending on the story one camp wants to push through, the opposing group is often left off the loop and comes to get to know about it when they pick the next day’s paper.

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“Someone can be on the news desk and even attend planning and delivery meetings at which the main story of the day is decided but would get surprised when the next day’s page one story is a piece that never came to his/her knowledge,” one source familiar with the matter said, adding such happenings have become a source of friction among senior editors.

The media house has previously come under scrutiny over what critics see as infiltration of vested interests into its editorial functions.

In the lead up, during and after last year’s protracted elections, NMG was accused of adopting a pro-establishment stance. The forced exit of those seen as holding divergent views such as Special Projects Editor Dennis Galava, who was sacked after writing an editorial critical of President Uhuru Kenyatta, as well as cartoonist Gado, have been attributed to this. Several columnists were later to severe ties with the media house, citing a dearth of editorial independence.

The restructuring exercises undertaken in the last two years have also been cited for allegedly being used to edge out top editors hailing from Opposition-leaning parts of the country.

In return, print sales are said to have taken a hit especially after the Opposition at one time called for a boycott of NMG products.

In March, the NMG Board was forced to come out with an assurance that it was fully committed to ensuring NMG remains an independent content generation and distribution company guided primarily by the values of truthfulness, fairness, accuracy and balance – tempered by a sense of humanity – in its reporting.

As part of its core editorial values, the NMG Board said it will make every effort to maintain a geographical, ethnic and gender balance among those employed in whatever capacity in the Group.

“The Board has been prompted to publicly reiterate this position because of the extremely critical stage that Kenya, and indeed the region, finds itself in. In summary, this is a stage characterised by extreme political polarisation that has triggered despair and scepticism in the public, a significant erosion of confidence in governance and public institutions (including media), an over-abundance of misinformation driven by ignorance and malice, and an alarming growth of official intolerance to free speech and media freedom,” it said.

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At the time, the country was in the deep of a political crisis following the fallout between Jubilee and Nasa over the outcome of last year’s presidential contest. 

 

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