The Standard Group has issued a raft of legal guidelines its journalists will be required to adhere to to reduce the media house’s exposure to defamation suits, potentially threatening to limit its braveness as captured by its ‘Kenya’s Bold Newspaper’ slogan.
According to Millicent Ngetich, the Head -Legal at the Group, the move follows a threat by Supreme Court Judge Isaack Lenaola’s to sue over a story the newspaper published that indicated he and Deputy Chief Justice Philemona Mwilu held secret meetings with lawyers representing NASA leader Raila Odinga when the apex court was seized of his petition that eventually led to the nullification of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s win.
The publication of the story split the newsroom with a section of editors supporting the writer, Mwaniki Munuhe, and another questioning the motive, claiming it was planted by the Jubilee administration.
However, in a response to Justice Lenaola, The Standard Group stood by the story, saying there was no need to apologise since it only reported a fair and accurate statement that was a matter of public interest with no ill intentions to tarnish the judge’s reputation.
“Our publication merely reported a petition submitted to the Judicial Service Commission for Investigation and Removal from Office of the Supreme Court Judge- Justice Isaack Lenaola submitted by one Derrick Malika Ngumu on 18th September 2017.”
“Rather, in publishing the allegations in the petition, our client only discharged its legal, moral and social duty to the people of Kenya who would be interested in receiving such information,” the media house’s lawyers, TRIPLEOKLAW Advocates, wrote to Justice Lenaola’s lawyer Donald Kipkorir.
ALSO SEE: Petition story ignites war at Standard
Internally, Ms Ng’etich has asked Standard Group journalists to adhere to the Code of Conduct for The Practice of Journalism in Kenya, noting that the media house has received several other demand letters and suits.
“We wish to dwell on the context of applicability of this defence to mitigate our exposure to legal action. The defence is provided under Section 7 of the Defamation Act… However, the defence is not available if the publication is (i) made with malice (ii) prohibited by law and (iii) not of public concern and not for the benefit of the public,” the advisory reads in part.
Ms Ng’etich says the courts have held that the burden of proving the defences of justification or qualified privilege lies with the defendant. Insiders at Standard say the media house is reeling under a mountain of libel suits arising mostly from its newspapers – The Standard and The Nairobian as well as KTN.
“Where this defence is pleaded, we are always required to prove that the publication is a matter of public interest and lack of malice – this evidence should be supplied to legal at all times,” the advisory says.
Ms Ng’etich says the courts have also adopted the below non-exhaustive guidelines that a defendant should observe if wishing to argue that a publication was responsible and in the public interest:
- a) The seriousness of the allegation, i.e. if the allegation is not true what will be the level of misinformation to the public and what will be the corresponding harm to the individual.
- b) The nature of the information and the extent to which the subject-matter is a matter of public concern.
- c) The source of the information and whether it is reliable or motivated by malice and/or avarice.
- d) Whether suitable steps have been taken to verify the information.
- e) Whether the allegation in a story has already been the subject of an investigation which commands respect.
- f) Whether it is important that the story be published quickly.
- g) Whether comment was sought from the claimant, or whether that was not necessary in the context of the story.
- h) If the article or story includes the gist of the claimant’s version of events.
- i) Whether the article or story is written in such a way as to amount to statements of fact, or whether it raises questions and is suggestive of the need for further investigation.
- j) The timing of the publication.
“You are requested to observe the above thresholds whenever publishing articles of public interest. We also wish to reiterate the need to adhere to the Code of Conduct for The Practice of Journalism (Code) in Kenya,” she adds.
Ms Ng’etich says the key tenets of journalism as enumerated the code include accuracy and fairness which calls publication of fair, accurate and unbiased stories.
“In addition, comments shall be sought from anyone who is mentioned in an unfavourable context and evidence of such attempts kept. The right of reply is also a legal requirement under S.7A of the Defamation Act,” the lawyer says.
She has called for strengthening of gate-keeping and strict adherence to the Code and asked journalists at the Group to consult the Legal departments whenever they have any queries and to attend training on defamation conducted by the legal department bi-annually. This story was originally reported by Daily Reporter.
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
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:
It is believed the move came after Muchiri had an altercation with a lady by the name Wanjiru Maina for which he later apologised.
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.
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)
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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