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REPORTER’S DIARY: When I marked birthday as ‘guest of the state’

For those who care to know, I was born on the Good Friday of 1966. At the height of the crusade for multi-partyism in Kenya in the early 1990s, it was just one day to my 26th birthday when the then authoritarian Kanu regime of now retired President Daniel arap Moi struck and converted me into a reluctant, uninvited Guest of the State

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Long gone are the days when journalists were a bold lot of courageous men and women driven by facts, consistency, principles and research as the irrefutable tenets that defined members of the Fourth Estate who relayed information as they saw and heard it.

 We now live in an era where comedians, hackers and tricksters have permeated and rebranded the once noble profession to give the trade a new identity and meaning.

 For those who care to know, I was born on the Good Friday of 1966. At the height of the crusade for multi-partyism in Kenya in the early 1990s, it was just one day to my 26th birthday when the then authoritarian Kanu regime of now retired President Daniel arap Moi struck and converted me into a reluctant, uninvited Guest of the State.

 As I headed to work on that Thursday morning in 1992, I was walking past the open parking lot between Kencom House and Tumaini House when I realised some mass of human bodies moving along with me towards our offices. I noticed that the open space was unusually congested with strange faces. I smelt a rat.

 I had just been arrested. This was the beginning of a chilling travail that saw me being held incommunicado over the entire Easter weekend at Ongata Rongai police post (now station), driven to Mombasa where I was charged with 11 counts of sedition together with Nyamora, his wife Loise, Njoka and Gitau and spent harrowing lengthy days and nights with hardcore criminals at Shimo La Tewa Prison after being denied bail by the Mombasa Chief Magistrate.

 I worked for the then fierce – some called it radical – Society Weekly political magazine where I was the News Editor and Pius Moseti Nyamora was the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief, Blamuel Njururi the Managing Editor and Samson Mwenda Njoka the Deputy Managing Editor.

 Mwangi Chege was the Deputy News Editor while Laban Gitau and Macharia Mugo were senior reporters. Fred Geke, George Obanyi and Mburu Mucoki completed the sub-editors’ desk. Learning the ropes of the journalism trade was Tom Osanjo who had deserted a teaching job in north-eastern Kenya to try his hand as a scribe. I was accompanied by the mass of humanity through the stairs to the third floor of Tumaini House where our offices were located.SHIMO-LA-tEWA-150x150 REPORTER'S DIARY: When I marked birthday as 'guest of the state'
At the reception, the editorial secretary Janet Marende had barely greeted me after calling my name while asking: “Wewe hujachukuliwa?” when the stalkers pounced on me. The heavily built moustached men carried me shoulder-high through the corridors and stairs of Tumaini House. Outside the building, we found over 60 other crew-cut men in dark suits who joined the fray to push, shove and bundle me into a waiting white saloon car.
As we were being charged in Mombasa, tens of my family members who had travelled all the way from Kabras in Kakamega County to Nairobi were all groping in the dark in the capital city as they had no clue of our whereabouts.

 The stint at Shimo La Tewa were the most excruciating. Apart from the nauseating meals and horrifying stories from my fellow inmates – most of them capital offenders – we were forced to squat naked every morning on two lines – one for men and the other for women – for medical check-up. Mind you, Mrs Nyamora was much older than us and our boss as a co-director of the Nyamora Communications firm that had employed us.

 It was an unsavoury experience to watch our naked female boss squatting on the women’s line, just two metres from ours. The purported medical examination entailed a warder pinching our private parts – the testicles – and if one writhed in pain they were declared fit. I have never come to know how women were being tested (obviously I could not ask my boss about it!) Yes, it was a demeaning experience for all of us.

 All these troubles were created by a cover story in our magazine titled “Kilonzo Go Home,” which was an assault on then Police Commissioner Philip Kilonzo (father of immediate former Yatta MP Charles Kilonzo) whose brutal stewardship of the law enforcement agency had assumed unimaginable proportions.

Also in Reporter’s Diary

 After spending several days in custody, Chief Magistrate Joseph Kanyi finally granted us bail. It was during the nascent days of the original Forum for the Restoration of Democracy (FORD). One of the so-called Ford Six Founder Members, the now late Ahmed Bahmariz mobilised Mombasa politicians and business people to stand guarantee for our bail. I was about to miss a guarantor when journalist Njuguna Mutonya (then the Mombasa Bureau Chief of the Nation Newspapers) stepped in at the nick of time and presented his car log-book to secure my release.

 We had the first decent meal at Splendid Hotel that evening and, together with members of the Release political Prisoners (RPP) lobby group who had travelled from Nairobi to show solidarity with us led by Njeri Kabeberi took the train back to Nairobi where we joined hunger-striking mothers of political prisoners at the Anglican Church’s All Saints’ Cathedral.

 One seamy element is that when I finally rejoined my family members, one of family older kin who was then a rabid Kanu supporter refused to greet me; his reason being that that I was an outlaw. It still puzzles and amazes me.

 Henceforth, we were to travel to Mombasa twice a month, for a period of three years for the mention of our case before then Attorney-General Amos Shitswila Wako entered a nolle prosequi to have the case dropped. Kenya’s journalism has walked very intricate terrains.
It is so sad that nowadays the gains made so painfully by a few brave practitioners who sacrificed so much are now being eroded shamelessly so fast by a bunch of greedy Judases who are ever ready to flout every rule in the book and throw every tenet of the profession through the window for some few pieces of silvers.

 The author is a Revise Editor with People Daily newspaper. Email: [email protected]

SHIMO-LA-tEWA-150x150 REPORTER'S DIARY: When I marked birthday as 'guest of the state'

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Media Watch

Capital FM manager in hot soup over rape tweets

Media house says it has noted with concern Joe W. Muchiri’s posts and is dealing with the matter with the seriousness it deserves

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Capital FM Production Manager Joe Muchiri.

A Production Manager with Capital FM is facing disciplinary action over social media posts propagating gender-based violence.

In a statement posted on Twitter by the Capital Group, the media house owned by billionaire  businessman Chris Kirubi said it has noted with concern Joe W. Muchiri’s posts and is dealing with the matter with the seriousness it deserves.

“We would like to make it abundantly clear that we do not support or condone gender based violence or any form of violence. We are therefore dealing with the matter with the seriousness it deserves,” said the statement.

Here is Capital Group’s statement:

Capital-Group-300x150 Capital FM manager in hot soup over rape tweets

It is believed the move came after Muchiri had an altercation with a lady by the name Wanjiru Maina for which he later apologised.

ALSO SEE: How social media is ruining people’s careers
Previously, Muchiri, an Arsenal FC fanatic, has tweeted about the games the London club is involved in, which critics say normalise rape.

He has also had exchanges with socialites such as Huddah Monroe and at one time made lewd remarks about now Nairobi Women Representative Esther Passaris attracting the ire of Annerlisa Muigai, the daughter of Keroche Breweries proprietor Tabitha Karanja.

Muchiri, also a radio presenter, started working at Capital FM immediately after college, though he had a short stint as an intern in KTN.

“Capital is my 1st and last job,” he says on his profile on the Capital FM website.

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Media Watch

Why Otiende Amollo walked out on NTV

Rarieda MP accuses Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa, a fellow panelist, of justifying the killing of Luos but the latter defends himself, saying post was on a parody Twitter account ( SEE STORY BELOW)

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The high political tensions in the country played out in the mainstream media on Tuesday morning, when an opposition politician walked out during a live studio interview with a rival legislator.

Despite continuous persuasion by NTV anchor Ken Mijungu to stay on during the heated ‘AM Live’ morning political show, Rarieda legislator Otiende Amollo walked out some 45 minutes after the show started at about 7am, moments after Kikuyu MP Kimani Ichung’wa walked in, Daily Nation reports.

Mr Otiende said he could not share a panel with Mr Ichung’wa over a tweet he claimed was posted by the Kikuyu MP

“Ken allow me to leave. I cannot sit on a panel with Kimani Ichung’wa because he sent a tweet that I find offensive, a tweet that suggests its okay to maim and kill Luos,” Mr Amollo said as he unplugged the microphone pinned on his chest.

Mr Amollo was referring to a tweet that went viral on Monday, apparently suggested Ichung’wa applauding the police killings in the ongoing opposition demonstrations.

Pinned to apologise by Mijungu, Ichung’wa however distanced himself from the tweet.

“That’s not my Twitter account,” Mr Ichung’wa said.

“I only have one Twitter account. I am in the process of having it verified. I even suspect these fake accounts are being created and operated by Nasa propagandists.”

“To the Luo nation, if there is someone you will never find fuelling ethnic hate, it’s Kimani Ichung’wa. Most of my friends are Luos and Somalis.”

Despite this explanation, Mr Amollo still made good his threat and walked out of the show, which also had Kiambu Senator Kimani Wamatangi in attendance.

Incidentally, Miguna Miguna who was expected to be a panellist on the very show, failed to turn up.

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Media Watch

Battle for Star’s top job gathers steam

Managing Director William Pike, who was away when the names of Nairobi County executive nominees were released, is said to be favouring an insider to take-over the mantle

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The search for a new chief editor has given hope for longevity of the Star newspaper which, it had been rumoured, would be shut down after the election due to poor performance in the market.

The race for Radio Africa Group’s biggest editorial job has started, a week after Charles Kerich was nominated as county executive committee (CEC) member by Nairobi Governor Mike Sonko.

Mr Kerich, who is Radio Africa’s chief editor, is awaiting approval by the Nairobi County Assembly before assuming the position of CEC member for ICT. All indications are that all the nominees will sail through.

At Radio Africa, which publishes The Star newspaper and runs a number of TV and radio stations including Classic 105, Kiss 100 and Radio Jambo, a major realignment is expected as the management seeks to replace Kerich.

READ: Nation Media arms its journalists for demos

The company’s Managing Director William Pike, who was away when the names of Nairobi County executive nominees were released, is said to be favouring an insider to take-over the mantle. But there’s also talk of headhunting talent from other media houses, including Nation Media Group.

According to sources, Mr Pike is fronting political editor Paul Ilado, even though special projects and investigations editor Francis Openda has been seen as a front-runner for the top job. “Openda is likely to takeover from Kerich,” said someone close to Kerich.

“Ilado looks of course the obvious pick, but he doesn’t seem to be interested in the high-profile job.”

Mr Openda, who has worked for The People and Standard before, has been at The Star since its infancy, where he rose from Business Editor to his current position. Ilado is a Radio Africa Group veteran, who started with Radio before settling on the Star political desk.

It is understood that Radio Africa has also approached former Sunday Nation Managing editor Eric Obino as a possible candidate for the chief editor position at Lion’s Place.  Mr Obino, who is Production Managing Editor for the Nation, denied having any talks with Radio Africa. “No, there is nothing of the sort,” Mr Obino said in response to inquiries from Business Today.

ALSO SEE: Star top editor Charles Kerich appointed Media Council chairman

If he is taken, it will be major catch for The Star, which has been struggling to win new readers and advertising over the past two years. Obino, a very experienced news manager, could inject a new style at the Star that comes with outsider advantage and perhaps rev up its performance.

The search for a new chief editor has given hope for longevity of the Star newspaper which, it had been rumoured, would be shut down after the election due to poor performance in the market.

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Media Watch

Nation arms its journalists for demos

This past week, security officers seeking to control Nasa street protests especially in the Raila Odinga stronghold of Kisumu have indicated they have no regard for journalists.

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NTV journalist Brenda Mulinya adorning a gas mask. It is the best tool to protect journalists as it allows them to cover the story safely. Photo Credit: Leon Lidigu/Twitter

As the National Super Alliance (NASA) readies for confrontations with security forces after ignoring a ban on street demonstrations, media houses have upped safety measures to ensure their journalists are protected against the hazards that come with covering violent beats.

Apart from their usual tools of trade – note books, pens, cameras, microphones, voice recorders and lately, smartphones – journalists have in recent times world over been forced to wear bullet proof gear and gas masks and the trend is fast catching on.

Bullet proof vests/jackets and helmets were first used in Kenya about three years ago when the country was in the grip of an intensified war against Somali-based al Shabaab militants who had sustained attacks in the country, including the Westgate Mall siege.

Media personnel covering the assaults against al Shabaab especially on the front line and inside Somalia were required as per protocol to wear bullet proof gear.

However, following the announcement of President Uhuru Kenyatta as the August 8 Presidential Election, KTN journalists Duncan Khaemba and Willis Otieno were taken into police custody for being in possession of bullet proof gear without a permit.

READ: Battle for Star newspaper’s top position kicks off

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.

This past week, security officers seeking to control Nasa street protests especially in the Raila Odinga stronghold of Kisumu have indicated they have no regard for journalists. Friday, 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.

Journalists harassed

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.

On Wednesday, 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.

SEE: Caroline Mutoko caught up in land scam

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.

In a bid to protect its journalists against such danger, the Nation Media Group has now invested in gas masks to shield them from its harmful effects.

Friday, a photo of NTV journalist Brenda Mulinya wearing one such mask was circulating online. Though expensive, a gas mask is the best tool to protect journalists by allowing them to cover the story safely, according to the International News Safety Institute (INSI).

Tear gas, which Kenyan police use rather generously for crowd control missions, has various harzadhs which journalists covering them should be aware.

ALSO SEE: Police beat up TV journalists covering NASA demo

For instance, when chemicals used in tear gas react with moisture they cause a burning sensation, meaning that the eyes, skin and lungs are extremely susceptible.  The INSI warns journalists covering protests to avoid wearing oil-based creams, sunscreens and make-up as they will also absorb tear gas.

Recently, the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called for a review of the country’s laws to allow journalists wear protective gear.

CPJ, which also asked the government to investigate cases of harassment and intimidation of at least 10 journalists in the aftermath of the August 8 poll, said the Firearms Act should be amended to allow journalists to wear more protective gear especially when covering riots and chaotic rallies.

READ: KTN journalists arrested as protests rock NASA strongholds

However, wearing gas marks to circumvent police dispersion tactics is still prone to challenges such as covering intense public situations when security agencies are striving to maintain order and likely, order everyone to leave.

The Reporters Committee quotes an instance where a freelance TV journalist Armando Gallardo was arrested by the Charlotte-Mecklenburg police in the United States while while covering protests in Charlotte over the fatal shooting death of Keith Lamont Scott.

Gallardo allegedly infringed upon regulations specified in Charlotte’s Code of Ordinances prohibiting “body armor, shield, helmet, protective pads, or gas masks carried or worn with the intent to delay, obstruct or resist the lawful orders of a law enforcement officer” during an extraordinary event – a “large scale special event of national or international significance … expected to attract a significant number to a certain portion of the city.”

Nevertheless, the right to information should be seriously considered in undertaking any review such as the one suggested by the CPJ.

READ: Nairobi billionaire pays Sh25 million for a loan he guaranteed a friend

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