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Nation Media Group Loses Award-Winning Business Daily Editor

Paul Wafula, an award-winning journalist, has produced some of the best investigative stories in Kenya

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Investigative journalist Paul Wafula left Nation Media Group (NMG) last week, as the media house intensified the purge on its payroll. Until his exit, Wafula, who is also a certified public accountant, was the editor of the Business Daily, the country’s only newspaper dedicated to exclusive coverage of the economy, business, and markets.

The award-winning journalist, who has produced some of the best investigative stories in Kenya, was seen clearing out at Nation Centre on Friday last week. He was jovial, shaking hands, and making jokes as he bid goodbye to his colleagues in the newsroom.

Sources within Nation Centre told Business Today that Wafula got his exit letter on Friday, 14th June, 2024. Other big names who have exited include Bernard Mwinzi and long-time sports editor Elias Makori.

Calls to Wafula’s phone were not answered. We tried to contact him through his friends, but they said he didn’t want to speak about it. A text message to his phone seeking a comment about his exit came with a curt, “No comment.”

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A friend said Wafula was now focused on his firm, as he works on getting his footing in doing journalism outside the mainstream newsroom. “Don’t worry, with his talent, hard-working attitude, and great record of performance, just know that he will land on his feet. There are less than five journalists in Kenya who can do what he does,” a former colleague at Business Daily, who left last year, told this publication.

To Wafula’s friends, his exit is seen as a shock, because he is one of the few journalists who stood up for the facts, pushing back whenever the moneyed men who run Kenya’s private sector wanted adverse stories against them killed.

“He clashed with management many times because he refused to turn the newspaper into a public relations machine for the corporates. He recently had a nasty run-in with one of the top bosses over a story concerning one of the big banks, and we knew the powerful banking cartel had a hard-on for him,” said one editor who still works at the Nation. “The cartels have won.”

The friends believe that with Nation Media Group struggling to balance its books —having made a loss of Ksh400 million this year and for the first time in decades —management was under pressure to cut deals to bring in advertising revenues. Some of those deals involved sacrificing proper journalism.

“Paul doesn’t do puff pieces. Whenever management or advertising fellows asked him to sacrifice a story for commercial interests, he sided with the reporters. He was a nightmare for PR companies which started using the advertising department to put pressure on him,” said a source inside NMG’s editorial department.

Paul Wafula interviews President William Ruto.
Paul Wafula interviews President William Ruto.

“You don’t understand journalism; you are not a journalist,” Wafula is said to have told the senior manager.

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Wafula’s critics, however, say he didn’t read the signs of the times. He was stubborn and always spoke his mind. He was still in love with the hard-hitting business journalism, exposing cartels. Yet, some of the people working to clean up – and even spruce up – the image and brand of the people Paul was exposing, are his former colleagues and bosses. They didn’t like it when he threatened their bread with his journalism. They lobbied for his exit.

Wafula covered public interest stories about tax increases, interest rate hikes, shrinking wages, pending bills to the government that have had many suppliers auctioned, the intrigues that have stalled the reforms for loss-making parastatals, the quality of jobs, and even the way the government calculates its statistics.

And also he took people into the boardrooms and private clubs where business tycoons slugged with each other to buy and sell blue-chip companies. Sometimes, those deals became public – thanks to Business Daily – forcing the tycoons and chief executives to call in the powerful PR machine.

Wafula did not cower easily, and publicists branded him ‘bad for business’, a slur that was repeated inside NMG.

Some of his big stories include the Sportpesa series that forced the betting company to cut off more than Ksh300 million of advertising revenues to date. The betting giant pulled out adverts after he wrote a series of investigative pieces and a podcast on the effects of betting in the country.

But the biggest story that cut him above the rest is when he broke the Covid Millionaires scandal after leading a team of investigative journalists at the Nation to dig through mountains of files from the registrar of companies to uncover the individuals who benefited from the Covid procurement scam.

Wafula did not cower easily, and the publicists branded him as “bad for business”, a slur that kept on being repeated inside editorial and management meetings inside NMG. Only that Wafula knew his business was journalism, but to NMG, the business was to use the journalism pages to make money, not just tell stories. That old clash between editorial and advertising, where the money always wins, showed up, often.

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On other days he simply revealed the corporate heists that take place in Kenya’s private and public sectors or even exposed the geopolitical battles with foreign colonial powers trying to control Kenya via debt, contracts, and even big-money purchases of Kenya’s strategic assets. “The good thing about JP is that when he puts his mind to it, he gives you a good story. He needs a supportive editor and he will give you the best story,” a retired editor who worked with Wafula at The Standard said.

Wafula, who has worked as an investigative journalist at both the Nation and the Standard, has reported on the dark side of the Chinese investments in Kenya, and the death of big companies like Mumias Sugar.

It is Wafula who did the famous Railway to Nowhere story that made former President Uhuru Kenyatta cut short his speech in Maai Mahiu to fight back the heat the story had generated. He also investigated how Kenyan workers working at the SGR were being mistreated, a story that shocked the country.

He also worked on a ground-breaking story on the pollution of the Nairobi River, the River of Poison, which NMG insiders said caught the attention of numerous donors keen to help in the environmental pollution.

“Look, business is bad. If as an editor you are batting on the side of journalism, at a time when your bosses just want to see money… your professional life drops significantly. That’s what happened here,” said a journalist at the Daily Nation, who is familiar with the intrigues behind the NMG exits.

All the sources sought anonymity because they did not want to be seen to be discussing a colleague, or besmirching the company that pays their bills.

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BT Correspondent
BT Correspondenthttp://www.businesstoday.co.ke
editor [at] businesstoday.co.ke
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