The American Press Association and most journalists in the world believe that independence of spirit and mind, rather than neutrality, is the principle journalists must keep in focus in their day-to-day professional duties. While editorialists and commentators are not neutral, the source of their credibility is still their accuracy, intellectual fairness and ability to inform, not their devotion to a certain group or outcome.
Mohamed Ali, better known for his investigative pieces under the series ‘Jicho Pevu’ (Mature Eye), has been a household name in the field of journalism for adhering to the aforementioned tenet of journalism.
Before 2007, his future in journalism was uncertain as he moved from one media house to the other – from KBC, Pwani FM to Radio Salaam, working as an intern without pay.
In every General Election, media houses brace themselves to cover political affairs properly, and the 2007’s General Election became Moha’s lucky moment when he was hired by KTN to add to their taskforce covering the polls. In an interview, he says that he had submitted more than 10 applications before he was hired. This was the turning point for the journalist turned politician.
Moha’s star started shining when he documented a story about the police brutally attacking Mathare residents who were said to be members of the outlawed Mungiki sect. Most journalists would not dare the government, especially the police, and this earned him the position of Chief Investigations Editor at KTN. He was then a diploma holder from little known News Link Institute of Journalism.
The KTN job offered him financial stability to further his education by joining Moi University for a Bachelor of Science degree in communication and public relations.
In his journalism career that lasted a decade, he has received his fair share of threats, with every episode loaded with threats, including a warning from the late Interior Cabinet Secretary Joseph Nkaissery.
“This young man called Mohammed Ali has had a habit of permanently putting the security organs of the country in the space of Al-Shabaab. He has been putting the security agencies in the negative and putting Al-Shabaab in the positive. It is wrong. That is unpatriotic,” Nkaissery stated.
Just married the other day
At one instance, he publicly posted one of the threats for an alleged Robert Wachira.
“Mr Mohammed Ali, you are a young boy, apparently you just married the other day and you now have a son less than one year old. I want to give you a last warning. Life is so precious if you don’t know. Leave jubilee regime alone. Never again oppose or criticise government. You can go to police if you wish. I can even give you my number I am very powerful. 0721 416582,” read the threat partly.
In 2012, Mohammed Ali left KTN for NTV as an investigative reporter but four months down the line he made a comeback to KTN, citing over-editing of his investigative pieces at NTV.
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In his career, he has clocked close to 20 awards including Head of State Civilian Award (HSC) Awarded by President Mwai Kibaki 2009, UN Peace Ambassador 2009, Brave Reporter of the Year (Waggalla Massacre 2011), Character Count Award (UN) on Brave Reporting, News Investigator of the Year 2010, Overall Journalist of the year and Good Governance Award(2015 Media Council of Kenya) among others.
Early this year, Ali made an announcement that seemed to be a wrong move, joining politicts which is considered a dirty game in Kenya. He announced his ambition to oust the then Nyali MP Hezron Awiti.
However, his ambition to win the seat under the ODM party met hurdles when he was beaten in the primaries by Mombasa Governor Hassan Joho’s cousin Said Salim alias Saido, who got 3,672 votes to his 2,873. He said the exercise was not free and fair and chose to run as an independent candidate.
On August 8th, Ali won the Nyali constituency seat with 26,798 votes (43.32%) of the total 61 855 valid votes. His closest competitor, Mr Salim, garnered 16,473 votes (26.63%).
Ali has in more than one time said that his presence in politics will not deter his quest for a better country and justice.
“I came into politics to fix my country and even if I lose, that does not mean that I will stop what I am doing. I am in this business and I will still fix my country and if I can do it in any other way then I will do it,” said Mohamed Ali in an interview before the elections.
The National Assembly is already painting a bad picture of itself even before it is sworn in, rejecting recommendations by Salaries and Remuneration Commission to reduce their pay. However, the no-nonsense journalist has already distanced himself from the MPs’ demands.
“I, Mohamed Ali Mohamed do not support any move to increase my salary and that of my fellow elected Members of Parliament. I have fought for equality and fairness all through my career and my first move as a Parliamentarian will not be to enrich myself. 40% of my countrymen live on an average of 10000 shillings or less. I do not see the purpose of an increment without ensuring that we create a legal framework for our countrymen to generate wealth FIRST. Count my vote against this,” said Ali on a Facebook post.
Whether we should stock pop corns and prepare for another series of Jicho Pevu in Parliament or not, is a matter of wait and see.