Kenyans love politics. That’s a fact that media houses have never failed to appreciate. So they feed Kenyans with lots of political stuff both in print and broadcast platforms.
To spice up their political reporting, TV stations often invite so-called political experts and/or analysts “to put things in perspective”. Whether it’s within the news or after news, analysts make for great viewing and listening during prime-time.
Well, you may want to think again about what to do with the time you spend watching those ubiquitous programmes – be it Side Bar or Decision 2017 on NTV, CheckPoint and Morning Express on KTN or even JKL Live, Opinion Court and Power Breakfast on Citizen TV.
It has emerged that these analysts, who play a major role in shaping public opinion on political affairs, are actually hired political ‘consultants’ and moles out to drive particular views supported by their sponsors.
In this year’s elections, both the August 8th and the repeal presidential elections on October 26th, the country’s main political parties – NASA and Jubilee – hired the services of such political analysts who appeared on TV, and some still do, at the very exorbitant cost of Ksh 100,000 per show.
That’s why you find the same analyst appearing on almost all TV stations at different times. It is understood that media houses pay some of the analysts to appear on their stations, but media managers will be happy to know that whatever they pay them is just the icing on the cake.
ALSO SEE: Why Otiende Amollo walked out on NTV
Some even appear on late night programmes but are still able to wake up early to take part in morning shows the very next day, something that has not gone unnoticed by keen observers leading to suggestions allowances are the key motivator.
Once an analysts is given an opportunity on TV, he or she liaises with either Jubilee or NASA secretariats depending on his political persuasion to negotiate for a fee to peddle the party’s agenda. Some of the prominent analysts who have appeared many times on TV during the presidential campaigns and elections include Miguna Miguna, Otiende Amollo, Nicholas Havi and Olga Karani of NASA while on Jubilee side there is Mithika Linturi, Kimani Wamatangi, Jennifer Shamala, Susan Kihika, as well as Kimani Ichungwa and Macharia Munene just to mention but a few. Lawyer Charles Kanjama has also been a regular.
It is not clear who among them is paid by political parties, but those on the payroll are called in for a briefing on what the key messages to push forward.
This revelation will likely have media houses rethinking how they choose their panelists. But it is a tricky affair as what makes the debate interesting are the contrasting views and often controversial personalities invited.
There have also been cases where political parties pay for their allies to be included on popular talks shows – such as JKL, Sidebar, or Checkpoint – and then send their preferred speakers with a prepared script.
Panelists who appear on the shows are draw allowances from media houses.
‘Fake News’ reinforces trust in mainstream media
New study by Kantar found that the reputation of traditional print and broadcast media outlets has proven more resilient than social media platforms and online only news outlets
Traditional print media and broadcast outlets are more trusted that digital platforms in the coverage of politics and elections, a new study by the world’s leading research, data and insight brand, Kantar, has revealed.
The global “Trust in News” study, which surveyed 8,000 individuals across Brazil, France, the United Kingdom and the United States of America about their attitudes to news coverage of politics and elections, found that:
- The efforts to brand ‘mainstream news media’ as ‘fake news’ have largely failed. The reputation of traditional print and broadcast media outlets has proven more resilient than social media platforms and online only news outlets, primarily as a result of the depth of coverage being delivered.
- Audiences are becoming more widely informed and sophisticated in their engagement with, and evaluation of, news content.
- The public retain a belief that journalism is key to the health of democracy – but have become more sceptical. Specifically, in both in Brazil and USA, where a significant percentage of the population believe ‘fake news’ impacted the outcome of their most recent elections.
Who do we trust?
The reputational fallout of the ‘fake news’ phenomenon has been predominantly borne by social media and messaging platforms, and ‘online only’ news channels. Print magazines, at 72%, are the most trusted news source, closely followed by the other traditional outlets of print newspapers and TV and radio news. Only one in three recognise social media sites and messaging apps as a trusted news source. ‘Online only’ news outlets are trusted by half of the population, significantly less than their print and broadcast brethren. Interestingly, the online presence of print and broadcast media are trusted slightly less than the originating titles and channels.
Social media and messaging platforms have sustained significant reputational damage as a source of trusted news. News coverage of politics and elections on social media platforms (among which Facebook is dominant with 84% usage in the preceding week) and messaging apps (of which Whatsapp is the most used) is ‘trusted less’ by almost sixty percent of news audiences (58% & 57% respectively) because of the ‘fake news’ phenomenon. ‘Online only’ news outlets also sustained significant reputational damage in this respect: ‘trusted less’ by 41% of news audiences.
Print titles have proved more resilient, experiencing a smaller loss of trust, with print magazines and newspapers both ‘trusted less’ by 23% of audiences. However, both categories also experienced similar increases in trust in their coverage (23% and 17% respectively).
Print media nets out with more than three quarters of news audiences trusting them ‘the same’ or ‘more than’ before the ‘fake news’ phenomenon. 24-hour news channels also retain a strong position as a trusted source with 78% of news audiences trusting them ‘the same’ or ‘more than’ before the ‘fake news’ narrative.
Across all four surveyed countries, 46% of news audiences believe ‘fake news’ had an influence on the outcome of their most recent election. This was most pronounced in Brazil – where 69% believed fake news had an impact, and the USA where 47% believe there was an influence. There is though some recognition that companies like Facebook and Google are taking steps to tackle ‘fake news’. (13% of UK news audiences claiming to have seen efforts vs a third of Brazilians, 16% in France and 22% in the US).
News consumption habits are evolving
The news-reading public are becoming a more widely informed audience. 40% of news audiences have increased the number of news sources they use compared to 12 months prior. ‘All online’ has overtaken television as the primary source of news (figure 3). With under 35 year olds, social media – despite its reputational issues –almost matches television as a source of news (65% Vs 69%).
The news audience is additionally becoming a more thoughtful audience. Contrary to ‘news filter bubble’ or ‘echo chamber’ narratives, we find 40% of social media users explore alternate views to their own and almost two thirds worry that ‘personalisation’ will create a ‘news filter bubble’. More than three quarters of news consumers claim to have independently fact-checked a story, while 70% have reconsidered sharing an article – worried that it might be fake news. On the flip side, almost one if five admit to sharing a story after reading only the headline.
The Kantar ‘Trust in News’ survey conducted representative sample surveys of 2,000 individuals each in Brazil, France, the United Kingdom and the United States of America. A more complete summary of the survey can be found on Kantar Insight pages, along with access to the full report.
Slowly but surely, Kenyan media has lost its soul
Media houses need to redefine how they intend to cover political situations in the country as well as how journalists conduct themselves on social media
The Tuesday attack on Citizen TV senior political reporter Francis Gachuri and NTV camera lady Jane Gatwiri by hooligans at the Wiper Party headquarters ahead of a press conference by NASA leader Raila Odinga once more highlighted the sensitive environment journalists, and political reporters specifically, are being forced to operate in.
And it is not just a Kenyan phenomenon. In neighbouring Uganda and Tanzania, political journalists and editors are finding it almost impossible to tell the truth as they are wont to be taken in by state security agents and their media houses’ operations shut down dare they raise their head above the surface. Even a post on social media is enough to land someone, a journalist or not, in trouble.
Government agencies, including in Kenya, have come up with tough guidelines to govern the use of social media, some of which are seen as an infringement on the freedoms of speech and expression.
In far south Zimbabwe, long-term President Robert Mugabe has been the subject of choice words after naming a minister responsible for Cyber Security Threat Detection and Mitigation, which has since come up with strict guidelines that administrators of social media groups must adhere to. Some have since nicknamed Patrick Chinamasa as “the minister for Whatsapp.”
Press the self-censorship button
In recent years, Kenya’s mainstream media has been under the microscope for apparent political biases that appear to influence their coverage of events and situations in the country especially in the post-2002 Kenya. During the days of the one-party state, the mainstream media chose to press a self-censorship button and often swallowed hook, line and sinker whatever the government chose to disseminate.
Those who stood up against the system such as Society magazine’s Pius and Loyce Nyamora often suffered the brunt of official crackdowns on what was then defined as seditious publications.
Even big players such as The Standard and Daily Nation often chose to play safe rather than provoke the ire of both founding President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta and his successor Daniel arap Moi, who perfected a police state in the country.
Recently, long-serving journalist Macharia Gaitho admitted how the government used to disseminate “news” regarding false subversion activities of its opponents. Daily Nation’s low moment, he said, was when it went to town with a splash headline that radical politician J.M. Kariuki had secretly travelled to Zambia based on an official feed while, in fact, he had been assassinated and his remains dumped on Ngong Hills.
Fast forward to the early 1990s when Opposition elements led by Jaramogi Oginga Odinga, Martin Shikuku, Kenneth Matiba, Charles Rubia, Paul Muite, Raila Odinga, John Khaminwa, Gitobu Imanyara and scores of other second liberation crusaders took on the government to demand reintroduction of multi-party democracy.
After intense local and international pressure, amid a sustained crackdown on pro-multi-party activists that saw many of them detained or forced into exile, Moi, in 1991, went against the KANU grain and agreed to the abolition of Section 2A, which had made Kenya a de jure one party state in 1982.
But if the media thought it had similarly been liberated, it was wrong. The Moi regime continued to bind and blind most journalists and editors and in addition upped dissemination of propaganda through Kenya Broadcasting Corporation (KBC) and the defunct Kenya Times, via its KANU briefs segment that was run by, among others, pro-system scholars such as the late Prof William Ochieng.
So much so that when former Vice President Mwai Kibaki surprised the system by defecting from KANU to found the Democratic Party of Kenya, Kenya Television Network (KTN) found itself in trouble when it broke the news of its formation.
Shortly after, Matiba, who ran for the presidency on a Ford-Asili ticket after breaking ranks with Odinga, but claimed he was rigged out by Moi was forced to found his own newspaper, The People weekly (now People Daily), after his attempts to place an advertisement in the mainstream media were refused for fear of reprisals.
In 2002, however, the Kenyan media was more than happy to see the KANU regime exit after defectors from KANU led by Raila Odinga ganged up with the majority of the Opposition to back Mwai Kibaki for the presidency on a National Rainbow Coalition (Narc).
At Charter Hall in Nairobi, Electoral Commission of Kenya chairman, the late Samuel Kivuitu, was taken aback when journalists covering the final announcement of Kibaki as the winner of the historic contest that pitted him against Moi’s favourite candidate Uhuru Kenyatta, were overwhelmed by joy.
“Even you journalists are clapping?” he quipped.
Moments, earlier, Kivuitu had been saved from angry Narc youths by, among others, Raila, after he declined to declare Kibaki the winner even after Uhuru had been asked by Moi to concede defeat on account that he had not received physical forms of results from constituencies.
However, in the lead-up to the 2007 General Election, media houses and individual journalists once more begun to take sides.
This began with the push for comprehensive constitutional reforms following Kibaki’s refusal to appoint Raila as Prime Minister in line with a pre-election agreement, leading to a fallout in the NARC government.
This marked the beginning of a reactivated post-Moi era propaganda machinery that saw journalists disseminate stories that favoured the side they were aligned to. At the time, online dissemination of news was taking root.
In the post-2007 crisis era, however, the media appears to have dug its own grave by not only deliberately supporting the side they are aligned to but by also opting to embed journalists in those groups based on ethnicity or apparent political leanings. Some journalists have even been kicked out of newsrooms thanks to political pressure.
Era of embedded journalists
Some observers have raised concern why only particular journalists are tasked to cover particular political parties and politicians clearly marking them out for profiling by news consumers. Just like in the military and security services, embedded journalists run the risk of being influenced to adopt particular stances and in the process undermine their professional ethics.
They are unlikely to be neutral observers of particular situations because apart from covering public media events, they are wont to wine and dine with the news makers late into the night before sauntering into newsrooms in the morning armed with “exclusive stories.” They also publish or influence publication of propaganda comments favouring their sides.
“Whatever a patron desires to get published is advertising; whatever he wants to keep out of the paper is news.”
The above sentiment is expressed in a little framed placard on the desk of L. E. Edwardson, day city editor of the Chicago Herald and Examiner in 1918.
To his credit, Raila is among the few politicians who have never sued the media even when subjected to coverage that borders on libel and defamation.
While Business Today does not condone violence against journalists, media managers must reflect on how they set up their news operations to avoid endangering the security of the staff. As KTN’s Chris Thairu posed following the attack on Gachuri and Gatwiri, what would happen if an Ochieng goes to cover a function in Central Kenya and he is picked out simply on the basis of his surname?
The situation is compounded by the fact that most journalists who have left the mainstream media to become communication managers in political formations and county governments are often chosen on account of their political leanings and ethnicity.
While Gachuri admits that ODM Communications Director Philip Etale was instrumental in securing his escape from the “uninvited” hooligans, many have pointed out that he cannot entirely escape blame as he has been at the forefront in castigating mainstream media coverage of the ensuing political dispute often referring to them as “githeri media.” Individual journalists have also been recklessly making political pronouncements on social media.
It brings to mind, US President Donald Trump’s criticism of the media, which he variously refers to as “crooked and fake” because of its coverage of his far-right positions on various issues and how the media reacts to them.
His attacks on individual journalists have similarly raised concerns as to whether they do not endanger their security.
Back at home, President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto have never hidden their disdain for the media, referring to newspapers as only fit to be “meat wrappers.” This despite the fact that both are now key media owners.
Going forward, media houses need to redefine how they intend to cover political situations in the country as well as how journalists conduct themselves on social media and whether it has any impact on their professional postures.
Regulatory and professional bodies must also be consistent on how they handle every emerging situation. In the absence of that, journalists such as Gachuri, who has been one of the soberest political reporters in the country, are likely to find themselves in unnecessary trouble.
Larry Madowo reveals media intrigues that shaped 2017 elections
In the 2017 poll, the role of fake news in spreading misinformation, propaganda and scaremongering made a journalist’s job even harder
I was at the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) on the day journalists were kicked out after the 2007 General Election went south.
The iconic building was the national tallying centre for the Electoral Commission of Kenya and had seen some epic battles as President Mwai Kibaki’s team fought to keep him in power.
The now deceased chairman of the commission, Samuel Kivuitu, had famously said he didn’t know where some results were and flippantly suggested that maybe they were getting “cooked”, in perhaps the most insensitive joke in the history of Kenyan elections.
As a young reporter barely out of my teens covering my first election for a small vernacular radio station, I didn’t quite grasp the significance of the moment.
We were all frogmarched out of the hall where the results were being announced and armed police left us alone only once we were outside the KICC gates.
That evening, Kibaki was hastily sworn in for a second term as the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation’s poorly lit video would later show and the whole situation unravelled into what would come to be known as post-election violence.
Never again, the country vowed, introducing a raft of legal and political reforms to avoid another situation like those dark months.
Save for the 2010 referendum, every election after the 2007 one has been just as hotly contested and the outcome just as divisive.
In my entire career as a journalist, I have never covered a Kenyan election that went smoothly, the loser congratulated the winner and the country moved on.
In the 2017 poll, the role of fake news in spreading misinformation, propaganda and scaremongering made a journalist’s job even harder.
Just last week, a newly registered website resembling NTV’s ran a post claiming that Deputy Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu had been placed under arrest after her driver was shot.
When the station corrected the false impression that we had published that story or owned the website, many people refused to believe it.
Here we were, telling our audience that we didn’t produce that misleading report and asking them to disregard it but many of them chose to believe it anyway.
It has been one of the most surprising aspects of this season: people would rather believe a convenient lie than an inconvenient truth.
Supporters of Raila Odinga’s National Super Alliance bought the narrative because it supported their lack of faith in the government.
Our legal and security team got in touch with the owner of the domain and it was quickly disabled for fear of a lawsuit and possibly some jail time but the damage had been done.
It is only the most recent example of deliberate deception in a drawn-out campaign season that has seen no small amount of strange occurrences.
In the weeks leading up the August 8 elections, several stories mimicking the style and branding of international television broadcasters were circulated to try and pass off political parties’ talking points fraudulently.
They were mostly glowing accounts of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s supposed resurgence in the polls or talked up his popularity, leading many to believe that they could have been commissioned by his party or his high-priced international consultants.
Accusations of bias
But the greatest challenge to journalists these past few months has been the never-ending accusations of bias.
A question, a tweet, a column or even a non-verbal cue on air were all analysed and often found questionable by increasingly critical audiences.
For every discussion programme, I am almost always accused of bias by both NASA and Jubilee supporters, which I still find oddly amusing.
“Why are you not neutral?” they often demand and I want to tell them I’m more interested in the truth than false balance but I choose not to engage. They helpfully add that you should take lessons from another journalist but next week, they are also telling the same presenter to be more like you.
Politics is a passionate subject so journalism that seeks to speak the truth to power isn’t necessarily the most universally loved.
Whether they realise it or not, people inevitably seek out information that agrees with them and dismiss anything that challenges their point of view.
They expect commentators on electronic media outlets or in the print media to support their candidates and gush about their parties or they immediately discount them as unworthy of the platform.
They also demand that journalists only ask tough questions of their opponents but treat their side with kid gloves and soft balls.
If you don’t toe the line, they will spam your social media with mean comments and point out how you don’t deserve anything you’ve worked hard for.
That is the difference in the decade since I started out on the small screen. Now the intellectual and the insufferable idiot have the same weight because they can both reach you on social media and make their point. That is why the Internet has been the single best and worst thing for journalism.
Will the elections be annulled once again?
“The law is very clear” is the latest Kenyan proverb to enjoy a quick ascent to mainstream use, thanks to a national obsession with the Supreme Court petition against the presidential election. Ironically, no two lawyers can agree on the interpretation of the laws they all agree are very clear.
Learned friends within the Jubilee fold believe that President Uhuru Kenyatta was duly elected since he got at least half the votes cast and also bagged 25 per cent of the votes in at least 24 counties.
“Legitimacy is not a legal issue,” Senate Majority Leader Kipchumba Murkomen told me on Sunday. His party argues that the low turnout was as a result of the public’s disaffection for repeat elections and that the president enjoys almost the same support as he did in the cancelled poll.
But Nasa says the election they boycotted was a sham and cannot be legitimate.
Like Harun Mwau’s position in his petition to stop the election, they charge that the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission was unable to hold a free, fair and credible election, by its own chairman’s admission. Many advocates have suggested that if the poll were contested in court, it would most certainly be annulled again because of the glaring gaps.
We’ll see what happens.
This article was first published in the Daily Nation’s Front Row segment.
KTN journalists brutalised by police in Migori
Kitili and his cameraman were covering an incident where members of the public were being forced to remove road barricades when the latter told an officer live on TV not to harm him again ( SCROLL DOWN FOR STORY)
Police brutality seems to be escalating at a time when political temperatures are heightening in the country, as Kenyans wait for the final results of the controversial elections conducted on October 26.
However, despite the complaints by the public, the media fraternity seems to be hiding something. Today while covering the protests in Migori county KTN journalist and political editor Ben Kitili and his cameraman received their fair share of the police brutality, if not controlled coverage.
In a live coverage of the police-demonstrators running battles, Kitili’s cameraman who focused on a man being brutalised by two policemen panned back to an activity where members of the public where involuntarily removing barricades on the road under the watch of police officers. The man was probably being forced to join others in clearing the Awendo-Sirare road that had been barricaded by the demonstrators.
Not aware that he was on air, the cameraman who was probably under a close watch was heard pleading with a certain officer not to beat him again. “Usinipige tena (Do not beat me up again),” he said.
In response, the officer who was ‘directing’ the coverage said, “Naweza sema utolewe hapa saa hii. Endelea kufanya hiyo unafanya, we hujui. (I can order your exit right now. Continue whatever you are doing, you don’t know (sic)).” Later, the cameraman is heard complaining that somebody has been injured, but the presence of a certain police officer could not allow him to cover the victim live on camera. Seemingly, the journalists were supposed to cover only events allowed by the officers.
Later, after things cooled down the cameraman was able to show the man live on air, but he was writhing in pain. Kitili reported that the man had been brutalised right in front of their own eyes. Despite being live on air, the journalists never covered the brutality. This time, the man could not stand up on his own and he was being helped by another Standard Group journalist to stand up.
Most journalist covering chaotic incidences have ended up being brutalized by the police, a good example being KTN journalists Duncan Khaemba and Willis Otieno who were taken into police custody for being in possession of bullet proof gear without a permit while covering demos in Nairobi after the announcement of results of the August 8 presidential election.
The two, who were covering protests in Kibra, were taken for questioning at Kilimani police station but were later released after the Standard Group confirmed that the gear in question was dully licensed.
Security officers seeking to control Nasa street protests especially in the Raila Odinga stronghold of Kisumu have indicated they have no regard for journalists. Early this month, a Citizen TV journalist was injured in the lakeside city during a confrontation between police and NASA supporters who had defied a protest ban imposed by Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i.
In Nairobi, journalists Fredrick Onyango and Enos Teche were clobbered outside Parliament Buildings. Onyango produced his press accreditation cards but it only made matters worse for him, thanks to his ethnicity. The officer allegedly told him he is one of those “troubling the country.”
“I said it today is a bad day for journalist my colleague Enos Teche and I clobbered outside Parliament they arrested me and went ahead seeking my press card when I showed it he looks at my name and says si ndio tunasumbua Nchi. His photos coming shortly,” he wrote on his Facebook page.
Earlier this month, five journalists were harassed, beaten and injured by police in Kisumu while covering the anti-IEBC demos. About 20 officers from the General Service Unit mobbed Rashid Ronald of KTN and Faith Matete of the Star near Kisumu Boys High School.
The officers clobbered Mr Ronald, injuring him on the leg. While beating him, they said Kisumu journalists were not any special than protesters on the street. The officers then lobbed teargas canisters at NTV’s Ouko Okusa, his cameraperson Doreen Magak and Daily Nation reporter Rushdie Oudia.
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