Daily Nation suspends editor for strong criticism of President Uhuru Kenyatta

After a rather hard-hitting editorial appeared in the Daily Nation voicing criticisms of the Kenyatta Administration, the newspaper has suspended the editor behind it. An internal memo cited the reason for the suspension as:

The lack of consultation and review of the editorial on the material day – where one writer takes a strong position on such an important issue single-handedly without broad consultations – is a significant departure from established procedure…

Two quick thoughts:

  1. If we take the CEO at his word, it says a lot about the management of the Nation’s newsroom that such a piece could be published without robust internal review and consensus on both content and tone.
  2. What is more likely is that the paper’s editorial team wants to do independent journalism, but the NMG business team is worried about losing advertising revenue from the central government (does anyone know what share of the paper’s (or NMG’s) ad revenue comes from the government?)

This is rather embarrassing coming from one of the Continent’s most reputable news establishments. I am sure president Kenyatta has enough thick skin to weather criticism in the editorial pages. The matter could have been handled without making it clear that the government implicitly dictates the tone of the Nation‘s editorial pages — you know, media independence and all that…

It looks particularly bad as it comes right before Kenya gets into full election mode.

Moving on, it’ll be hard to be sympathetic with the NMG when Kampala or Dodoma harasses the The Daily Monitor or The Citizen.

Update: Here’s a comment from Macharia Gaitho, a former Managing Editor at NMG:

It’s true that at NMG Leaders on a sensitive topic must go through a consultative process. This ensures that they reflect the Group position rather than personal opinion, and that whoever needs to know is in the know. If procedures were flouted and the Group left exposed, it would best have been handled quietly and internally. As it is, action taken against an individual has doubly exposed NMG. For more than a generation the Group has struggled to counter perceptions that it is pro-government. Now it has reinforced those perceptions with action that will be widely interpreted, even if wrongly, as punishing an editor for espousing a view that angered State House. The damage will be almost impossible to undo. And never in the history of the Nation has an individual responsible for a Leader been publicly ‘outed’. The remedy here will prove more damaging than the original offense.

president kibaki’s weird move

President Kibaki has done quite a few good things for Kenya. He will be remembered as the president who did away with the oligarchic constitution that Kenya inherited from the Brits at independence.

That said, his recent move to appoint constitutional office holders in the justice system without consultation raises serious questions about his commitment to Kenya’s reform agenda. And it is not simply about his failure to consult the ODM in making the appointments. Mr. Kibaki ignored due process stated in the constitution. Appointments to the judiciary are required to originate from the judicial service commission.

Also, why appoint Ruto’s lawyer to be director of public prosecutions? Didn’t anyone at Harambee House see the obvious questions that would arise? As Macharia Gaitho notes:

If the Kenya Government – or rather President Kibaki’s PNU axis – is to convince anyone that it has the will to establish a truly independent local tribunal, then it could not do much worse than nominate a lawyer for one of the Ocampo Six as Director of Public Prosecutions.

celebrating kenyatta day

Macharia Gaitho has a rather hard hitting editorial piece in the Daily Nation today. His rather utopian idealization of the revolutionary Kenyan peasantry aside (they are very complicit in the creation of the mess that is Kenya today), I think he raises some serious questions that the country – and especially the ruling class – needs to revisit as it celebrates Kenyatta Day.

Happy Kenyatta Day!!