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Cheeseman: Nation Media rotten to the core

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Prof Nick Cheeseman has explained in detail why he made the decision to resign as a Nation Media Group columnist, saying it was not as a result of isolated incidents but a pattern that pointed at censorship of independent voices.

In a farewell letter to his former colleagues, Cheeseman, a professor of democracy at the University of Birmingham, says it is not just the sacking of Denis Galava, the former Managing Editor in charge of Special Projects and Investigations, or the no-renewal of the contracts of columnist David Ndii and cartoonist Gado that forced him and seven others to quit en masse.

He also shockingly reveals that Nation editors failed to publish his piece in last weekend’s edition of Sunday Nation and, at the same time, removed certain elements that mentioned departed colleagues, though he again says his resignation was not motivated by the development.

“And it is not just the publication of a fake obituary of Jimmi Wanjigi, or the fact that certain stories are being spiked or watered down,” he adds.

“Any of those things could have been excused or put down to a mistake. But all of these things together tell a far more worrying story, and one that we cannot ignore. I suspect many Nation employees feel the same, and that some could leave with us, if they could afford,” Cheeseman writes.

“That said, I am very sad to be going, I have loved writing for the Nation, and I wish I could continue to do so. But recently I have been thinking about what I will say in years to come when people ask me what I did in the struggle for civil liberties and media freedom in Kenya, and my answer cannot just be: “I kept writing.””

“I my columns, I often demand that people uphold democratic standards and live by their own principles. As someone that talks the talk – and talks quite so much – I must also be willing to walk the walk,” he adds.

“I hope that you will understand the reasons for my resignation, even though you may not agree with it, and that we will get to work together again one day. The pen might be mightier than the sword, but sometimes it is most powerful when you put it down,” the farewell letter concludes.

Here is his letter, which he posted on Twitter on Wednesday.

Other columnists who quit on Tuesday include George Kegoro, the executive director of the Kenya Human rights Commission who writes a column for the Sunday Nation; Muthoni Wanyeki, the director of Open Society Foundation and columnist in Saturday Nation and The East African; Father Gabriel Dolan, Catholic mission Priest and Saturday Nation columnist; Rasna Warah, author and Daily Nation columnist and Maina Kiai, co-director InformAction and columnist Sunday Nation.

Others were Gabrielle Lynch, professor of comparative politics at University of Warwick and Saturday Nation columnist and Kwamchetsi Makokha, programme advisor at Justice for Journalists and columnist for Daily and Saturday Nation.

READ: I might quit, Sonko tells Nairobians

However, NMG Head of Corporate and Regulatory Affairs Clifford Machoka said the media house was founded more than half a century ago on the bedrock of independent voices, diversity and freedom of expression and has developed through a process of public participation and publicly published its editorial policy to guide its conduct and journalism.

“We believe that the principles of independence, fairness and balance, as espoused in our editorial policy are key to promoting the democratic space whilst being mindful of the impact that information in the public space plays in shaping opinions,” said Machoka.

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