Why Did Nation Media Group Fire Galava?

Mr Galava, who was suspended on January 6th, 2016, was fired today for “not following due process and endangering the group’s business.”

A significant portion of NMG’s “business” includes ad revenue from the Government of Kenya.

On January 2nd the Daily Nation’s main editorial page ran an uncharacteristically hard-hitting piece highlighting various shortcomings of President Kenyatta and his Administration. It later emerged that Mr. Denis Galava had solely penned the piece. This tells us a lot about the state of newsroom management at NMG. Who else saw the editorial before it ran? Does NMG want us to believe that they never collectively agree on what runs in their main editorial pages? When they say “we” in these pages, who are the “we”?

Of course, a more plausible explanation is that the editorial team at NMG is actually independent, and on January 2nd sought to channel middle class dissatisfaction with the Kenyatta Administration. It’s potentially minuscule political impact notwithstanding, the editorial got significant airplay precisely because its contents resonated with a significant proportion of the Kenyan middle class.

The NMG management then panicked, and in an attempt to protect NMG’s “business” dealt a serious blow to hard-earned media freedom in Kenya.

I can’t rule out the involvement of busybodies at State House in the firing of Mr. Galava. But I also don’t think that this is a decision that came from super high up in government. It was most likely an internal (NMG) foolish reaction to the massive airplay the editorial got (they wanted to protect their “business” and the close relationship between the Aga Khan and the Administration). To this end they may have been nudged by some overeager underlings at State House desperate to show the boss that they’ve got his back.

But was this really necessary?

Uhuru Kenyatta is the President of the Republic of Kenya. He and his Administration should not need to be protected from journalists who are simply doing their job. As the Galava case will soon demonstrate, such acts will only reinforce the perception that Mr. Kenyatta and his Administration are bent on taking Kenya back to the KANU days (I don’t think this is true, see here).

This is a step backwards for media freedom in Kenya. Shame on the NMG management.

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