A fake journalist was today charged with stealing a KTDA gift hamper at Intercontinental Hotel in Nairobi, turning the spotlight on the growing breed of imposters who hop from function to function looking for food and handouts. David Wandera Ojiambo appeared before Senior Principal Magistrate Charity Oluoch but denied stealing the gift bag belonging to the Kenya Tea Development Agency.
The court heard that on December 7, 2016 at Intercontinental Hotel along Parliament Road within Nairobi County, the man masquerading as a journalist stole a khaki paper bag of KTDA containing three packets of JANI green tea leaves valued at Ksh4,500, the property of John Njoroge Karanu.
Wandera was also accused of handling stolen property contrary to the law. He is said to have dishonestly received or retained the khaki paper bag of KTDA, knowing or having reasons to believe to be stolen property. Wandera was released on Ksh3000 cash bail or bond of Ksh20,000. The case will be mentioned on December 27, 2016.
The issue of quack journalists is not new although it continues to raise concern among events’ organisers who have to grapple with imposters out for food, extortion and stealing from guests and genuine journalists.
At the launch of the Africa Media Barometor in Kenya mid November, the rise of quack journalists who trawl functions with malicious intents took centre stage. These journalists purport to come from certain media houses, some are even armed with fake Media Council of Kenya cards or company cards, will appear in press conferences to first eat and, hopefully, get some cash handouts or freebies then leave without even talking notes for the next function.
These quacks, some of whom are trained journalists but attached to no media house, continue to prowl functions in major towns despite a move by Media Council of Kenya to counter them.
They have links links with all newsrooms and often get daily update of functions. With technology, they have also joined various Whatsapp groups to keep themselves abreast of events.
In April MCK, concerned at the rising cases of professional misconduct amongst journalists and violation of the codes of ethics as provided for in the Media Council Act 2013, said it will withdraw press cards of journalists found culpable of professional misconduct. No single case has been reported.
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The Chief Executive Officer Dr Haron Mwangi said the cases range from misrepresentation, bribery and extortion. The council recently launched a mobile system to confirm the validity of journalists’ press cards in the efforts to promote professionalism in the media industry, but awareness among the public is still low. “With the new systems one can easily establish the status of any journalist accredited by the council through mobile phone thus stopping cases of impersonation and bribery,” it said.
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According to the council, a list of all accredited journalists would be shared in all the 47 counties including public agencies and hotels throughout the country to help deter those who masquerade as journalists.
The case facing Wandera is the first in recent times against a quack journalist stealing from a media conference host, but cases of journalists being busted abound. In September 2013, Marshal Wanyoro Wanjeri was arrested in September 2013 for impersonating a journalist from Nation Media Group to extort Nairobi Senator Mike Mbuvi Sonko. Wanjeri threatened the senator about a bad story that was about to explode. He even had a Nation business card in the Peter Mutuma, which was different from that on his ID card.
In January this year two men were arrested after they were caught impersonating editors of Nation Media Group with the aim of extorting money Bungoma. Glen Kisiang’ani and Ken Onkota allegedly conned a businessman at Rise Up Society a total sum of Ksh110,000 after conducting a nine-day operation from January 2. The impersonators claimed they were editors following up on a story, that was aired on NTV to expose the rot in the company.
Mr Onkota was nabbed in the act of attempting to get his final pay of Ksh50,000 from the company’s Managing Director Jim Ndiruchi. He then led the Police to his accomplice who was waiting to share the money at a shopping centre in Kaguchai Constituency.
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