Nation Media Group (NMG) had agreed not to cover the “swearing-in” of NASA leader Raila Odinga, but backtracked on the material day, perhaps after seeing its rivals beaming live images.
An internal memo leaked to BusinessToday reveals how the Editor-in-Chief Tom Mshindi had, on the eve of the swearing-in, directed NTV to desist from covering the proceedings live.
“NTV will not give live coverage to any swearing in event/function because any such activity is illegal and we will not abet an illegality by giving it a platform to be beamed live and un-curated across the world,” he told top NTV editors/manager.
He had instead suggested that its reporters cover the event whose footage would be edited before being aired in its subsequent bulletins. “If it happens, we will be there to cover it for editing, curating and airing in later bulletins,” he said. “Because of the high tension that may attend such a function, I suggest that our teams, cameras and microphones are not conspicuously branded.”
The memo helps to explain the tension between NMG top management and NTV General Manager Linus Kaikai, who defied the order and allowed live coverage. The evening before, Kaikai, as the chairman of the Kenya Editor’s Guild, issued a scathing attack against the government for banning live coverage of the event. He accused the government of muzzling the media and urged media houses to defy the order.
According to the memo, Kaikai and Mshindi had principally agreed to implement the government directive. It’s not clear why Kaikai later changed heart, an action that has made him a marked man after NTV was switched off by government along side KTN News, Citizen TV and Inooro TV.
It could also explain why Mshindi has subsequently directed the new NTV Editor Pamela Asigi to report directly to him, in effect removing Kaikai from the editorial chain of command.
Mshindi was among media owners and managers who had the previous week met with President Uhuru Kenyatta and top officials at State House, Nairobi, where, according to Interior Cabinet Fred Matiang’i, they were given a prior security brief outlining why the Uhuru Park event should not be covered live.
After media house went ahead to live stream the event, the government shut down NTV, Citizen TV, Inooro TV and KTN News. They remain off-air despite a High Court order secured by activist Okiya Omtatah.
Below is the full memo:
There has been some conversations about what we might or might not do with regard to coverage oftomorrow’s events. This note will serve as the guideline on how NTV will proceed.
- a) NTV will not give live coverage to any swearing in event/function because any such activity is illegal and we will not abet an illegality by giving it a platform to be beamed live and un-curated across the world. If it happens, we will be there to cover it for editing, curating and airing in later bulletins. Because of the high tension that may attend such a function, I suggest that our teams, cameras and microphones are not conspicuously branded.
- b) If, as might happen, we do not have a swearing in function and instead we have confrontations between police and NASA supporters, we will of course cover these on an on-going basis as we always do, taking live feeds from various locations and interspacing these with normal programming. Let us consult freely and let us make sure our teams are safe. I expect that we have requested the anti-riot gear in readiness for tomorrow.
I have discussed this with Linus and we are aligned.