Kenya’s Largest Newspaper Misinforms Readers About Obama Remark, Deletes Story

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Update 8:30 p.m. Daily Nation has since deleted the link to the story which was on its website frontpage after a backlash from Kenyans on Twitter.

Kenyan media has been applauded for their role in the coverage of the just concluded general elections. Television pundits and reporters have been very careful not to ignite voter and ethnic tensions during their intense coverage of the elections.

Nonetheless, media houses have also been accused of self-censoring and sensationalizing stories.

Kenya’s largest newspaper, Daily Nation, carried this headline on Sunday on its website:  “Kenya not safe for foreign journalists, says Obama.”

 Obama spoke at the Gridiron Club dinner Saturday night, an annual event that brings together Washington’s political leaders, journalists and media executives poking fun at each other and features the American president giving a humorous speech.

“This year alone, reporters have exposed corruption here at home and around the world,” Obama said at the dinner. “ They’ve risked everything to bring us stories from places like Syria and Kenya, stories that need to be told.”

Daily Nation has interpreted the remark as Obama saying “Kenya was a dangerous destination for international reporters.”

Did Obama actually say Kenya is a dangerous place for foreign reporters or is the most widely read paper in the country engaged in increasing its readership by sensationalizing stories and taking quotes out of context?

Kenyans on Twitter reacted to how Daily Nation covered Obama’s statement.

During the elections, Kenyan media houses told the Associated Press on Thursday that the Media Owners Association agreed not to sensationalize stories, including not airing political statements live that could ignite public tension ahead of Saturday’s announcement of the presidential winner.

“We actually made a mistake in 2007 as Kenyan media,” Dennis Okari, Kenyan TV reporter for KISSTV, told the AP. He claimed that many media outlets are owned or overseen by political leaders.

“At that time many media houses had actually taken sides. Some were supporting (Prime Minister) Raila Odinga, some were backing (President) Mwai Kibaki,” he said. “We were partly blamed for the post-election violence. This time things have been done a bit different.”

President-elect Uhuru Kenyatta praised the role that Kenyan media played during the elections.

“You have shown remarkable responsibility as this country’s fourth estate,” Kenyatta said. “You have shown sensitivity in the dissemination of news and impartiality in your treatment of the results. You have no doubt helped to keep the country calm.”

 

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