By Dikembe Disembe
Not long ago, I used to read zealously opinion articles from a few writers of the DailyÂ Nation and TheÂ Standard Newspapers. I read Ali Mazrui; to date, I can’t recall when that was. All I know I is that I must have been a young toddler primary school, long before I entered journalism class in a public university. I am now a finalist!
I still read the ‘fifth columnist’ Philip Ochieng. Once in a while, I have been lucky to engage this media colossus on twitter.
To know the thinking within the Jubilee legal fraternity, I read Ahmednasir Abdulahi. To understand the thinking within the ‘government’, I read a combination of Macharia Gaitho and Mutuma Mathiu and almost ‘all of them’.
That’s why I must have been taken aback when, reading the Daily Nation, Gaitho ‘uncharacteristically’ got pissed off because of the recent ‘draconian’ media bill.
Macharia Gaitho was part of the men who organized the media-statehouse breakfast a few months ago. As the Chairman of Kenya Editor’s Guild, Gaitho played a central role in the ‘success’ of a meeting which left many Kenyans awed. As he says, ‘he does not regret it’, yet he oxymoronically asks in the same article, ‘how did such an obnoxious law as the Kenya Information and Communications Act navigate its way through all the process to win passage in Parliament in the first place?
It is difficult to tell whom Macharia’s question is directed to; because, that is the sort of question that any right-thinking journalist needs to help society not to ask in the first place! But Gaitho is right in asking that question. You know why? As his younger proteges in newsrooms left statehouse, many of them were awed by the state officialdom. Some where in the frenzy, everyone took to Face book and twitter; they have have never come out!
“How did the equally reprehensible Media Council Bill make its way through all the processes to the debate state?” Gaitho, unapologetically, asks again!
Gaitho’s questions appals every right-thinking citizen. Here is a senior member of the fourth estate asking Kenyans questions that his field reporters, investigators, sub-editors, editors and even the ‘media owners’ claim ignorance of; and now engages the public in a deliberate anti-government slander which reeks of pure idiocy.
Many have argued here that Uhuru Kenyatta’s win was an indictment of the manner in which journalism is practised in Kenya. Macharia does not deny this, instead, he goes to defend the indefensible, quipping in his opinion piece that “I donâ€™t regret honouring that breakfast invitation because I know that no pact was struck . . .”, he goes on to say, “any newsman would be foolish to snub key decision-makers on partisan grounds”.
Ooh, but the government – a key decision maker – just did that, Mr Gaitho?
The problem with Macharia, seemingly, is the old mindset dominant among most media personalities of his age: he still thinks the media ‘owns the breaking news’. He feels that those Kenyans on the left are just mad at the media because “they did not declare Raila Odinga the winner of the March 4 elections”. He reifies this left as ‘opposition supporters and civil society’.
Yet, the kind of media preaching and the outright ‘theft of information’ by most journalists on that fateful evening when none had the ‘questions’ to ask Isaak Hassan of IEBC remains stained on the very alliance which had ensured that a free press was Kenya’s gift for this generation. The same ‘left’, comprising ‘opposition supporters and civil society’ had been with the media all through.
The left was with the media in the infamous Artur days. The left was there when live coverage was ruthlessly stopped by the ‘breakfast right’ in 2007. The repeal of section 2A of the old constitution was a product of the same unflinching left; yet Gaitho, in his famous moments in the lawns of state house that July, ostensibly heralded a new era of the ‘media without the left’.
For some time, it seemed to be working. Post-poll victims stories got the balance of the criminal’s media airtime. Public appointments revolved around Gaitho’s rural home (he turned the other eye), the treatment of opposition politicians became a matter of ‘left’s concern alone’, the civil society became increasingly ‘western-funded’ while all this time, the media was congratulated for responsible reportage at every turn. It was an extended breakfast where Gaitho & co got their fill and gave ‘Kenyans’ their residual filth! That explains why none of them saw this coming, or does it?
History has often accorded one singular end to those who rode on the backs of tigers – they ended up inside! So today, the media wants to rebuild its alliance with the left. That’s what it is. That’s why ‘freedom of expression’ of ‘Kenyans’ are at risk; not ‘freedom of the media’ to continue feeding Kenyans with ‘government shit’ in the form of ‘news’.
Because we still need the media, unadulterated by both Jubilee propaganda or the breakfast-loving Gaithos of this country, the new pact should be renegotiated on new terms. Now more than never before, Kenyans deserve to know what the real issues at play are. In fact, one would love to know what the issues at play were from the beginning!
If now the Gaithos in Kenya’s newsrooms feel that the ‘freedom of expression’ of ‘Kenyans’ is facing this generation’s threat; it is only fair that they define what they deem as ‘freedom of expression, or ‘freedom of the media’. Does it also include freedom of ‘any newsman not to snub the (so called) key decision-makers on partisan grounds?
Let me remind teacher Gaitho: Journalists can no longer claim that their work effectively serves the “public” or “upholds democracy” without explaining as concretely as possible their ‘models of democracy’.
What then is the model of democracy Mr Macharia Gaitho feels the media in Kenya should serve? We would love to know this because ‘we’ in the ‘left’ are cognizant of the fact that if all journalism in Kenya commits itself to democracy poorly understood, it can still fail! Lest we forget, a short journalist is at the Hague, answering to heinous crimes against humanity.
Over to you, Mr Gaitho!