Recently K24, the television station run by Mediamax Network, canceled a show on which Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro was scheduled to appear. The outspoken MP had been invited by Anne Kiguta, the host of the Punchline talk show on Sunday night.
But the show was canceled at the last minute and Anne asked to inform the guest as much. In broadcast newsroom, that is about the hardest assignment for a journalist: telling an invited guest the show is not happening. It’s harder even it’s you the TV host who approached the guest, and convinced him/her to appear on the show, oftentimes outside their schedules.
Like the TV host, the guest takes time to prepare for the show – which includes researching and reheasring anticipated questions and responses; some will even buy new outfit/make-up and of course inform their followers to watch them on the show.
So when the show is canceled for unexplained reasons, it becomes like the cold calls that insurance salespeople make to interest people in their products. It’s hard to convince such a guest to appear next time.
So it happened at K24 on 18th October 2020. And Anne was not impressed. She stood to lose credibility first with Nyoro and, secondly, with her viewers.
To save face, she did the unthinkable: exposed her bosses as those behind the cancellation. It was, she said, forced on her, and being just an employee, she had to comply or ship out. It’s less expensive to comply in this era when jobs are hard to come by.
“Well, tonight I begin with offering you an apology,” Anne Kiguta, softspoken but firm, told viewers. “We on Punch Line invited the fiery first-time legislator Ndindi Nyoro on the programme. The Kiharu legislator, as you all know, is a staunch defender of Deputy President William Ruto who has cast aspersions on the BBI process. But that interview has been cancelled. As the host of this programme, I have a responsibility to you, the viewer, and therefore I must state that this was not my decision and I respectfully disagree with it.”
In her first sentences, she discreetly reveals the reason behind the cancellation. It was because Nyoro supports Deputy President William Ruto, who doesn’t support the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) being pushed by (Raila Odinga and) President Uhuru Kenyatta who, apparently, owns K24. Case closed.
Anne Kiguta got deserved praises for standing up against her bosses and the Media Council Kenya has also celebrated her with an editorial in its weekly Observer newsletter. In her action, it says, other journalists can pick a number of lessons, the biggest of them all being: standing up against your boss won’t necessarily get you fired; it can, actually, fire up your career.
Below is the full editorial published in the Observer newsletter of 2nd November.
What did Anne Kiguta say on TV? Was she crazy? Okay, let’s come slowly. Anne hosts Punch Line, a current affairs show on K24 TV. The team had invited Kiharu MP Ndindi Nyoro to the show on October 19. It did not happen.
Anne read out a statement that is certainly the first of its kind in the history of Kenyan television. “Well, tonight I begin with offering you an apology. We on Punch Line invited the fiery first-time legislator Ndindi Nyoro on the programme. The Kiharu legislator, as you all know, is a staunch defender of Deputy President William Ruto who has cast aspersions on the BBI process.
“But that interview has been cancelled. As the host of this programme, I have a responsibility to you, the viewer, and therefore I must state that this was not my decision and I respectfully disagree with it.
“We invited Nyoro on this programme and, indeed, we invite all politicians of all persuasions every single week, because we, because I, believe in listening to all sides of the debate. “However, the management of the station was of a contrary opinion and had their considered views, concerns by which this programme is bound.
I must also say that this is a decision that is within their rights because as they say in all establishments, the management reserves the right of admission. And so, my apologies to the viewers of this programme.”
What do ‘wahenga’ call that? Principled. The courage to stand up for one’s convictions. Anne stood before the camera clearly disgusted with her employer, but unbowed. She kept her head up. Smiled her hurt away.
It is easy to imagine the clash between Anne and her bosses over inviting Nyoro. She certainly told them basically the same thing she told viewers. They refused. She won. How? Anne prevailed upon them to allow her to appear on the screen and apologise to viewers.
That is smart politics, isn’t it? In that way, she let the world judge between her and the bosses. She wasn’t going to let them lie to the public that the programme would not run because of “unforeseen circumstances”.
Anne came through as an independent-minded journalist and fearless defender of the public interest. K24 exposed itself as a partisan outfit with zero commitment to professional integrity.
“I want to salute @AnneKiguta for this bold statement. We owe our audiences the truth. Journalism is about the truth. Nothing else matters without the truth. We must win back journalism in Kenya,” the Star digital editor Oliver Mathenge wrote. Newsrooms are full of spineless scribes who cannot stand up, look their bosses in the eye and say a firm no.
When do we get another bold journalist like Anne?