November 26, 2010


Robert Ouko murder: irresponsible reporting overlooks key case facts. It is time we started letting the truth get in the way of a good story.

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Robert Ouko murder: irresponsible reporting overlooks case facts

Robert Ouko murder: irresponsible reporting overlooks case facts

The Business Daily on Wednesday November 24, ran a front page headline ‘Casual jobs lock young Kenyans in poverty trap’ under which a journalist named Mwaura Kimani covered a story that claimed employers were reverting to employing ‘casuals’ to ‘cut costs and protect profits’, and in which he stated ‘Kenya has had one of the most flexible labour markets in Africa’.

In the same report, carried on to page four, Kimani stated, ‘Employers said the prevailing regulatory and business climate that is characterised by high cost of investment and bureaucracy has made permanent employment untenable’.

So to the same newspaper, same day and on page six there was a headline, ‘Rigid labour system erodes Kenya’s gains in regional markets’ and a report by, er… Mwaura Kimani. So what’s the truth? Flexible labour markets or a rigid labour system? And why didn’t Mr Kimani, his sub-editor or the editor spot the contradiction?

This sort of lax reporting is odd but by far from unusual. Let’s take a loot at another example. This one is something much more serious – the murder of Foreign Minister Dr Robert Ouko in 1990.

The murder of Dr. Robert Ouko: time to let the truth get in the way of a good story

Sunday’s Standard returned to the subject with an article on a Harrison Angir, a former detective who says he compiled reports that implicated the Government of the day in the Ouko’s killing. Perhaps he did, and perhaps he didn’t, but that is not the main point requiring our focus at the moment. Our point is that yet again, lax reporting (this time by Kipchumba Some) confused an issue that for too long has been clouded in fog and inaccuracies when so many of the facts have been known for years.

Take Some’s article. Ouko was killed on ‘Saturday 13 February, 1991’ he states – he wasn’t, it was Monday 13 February, 1990. Or again, ‘the ‘parliamentary committee investigating Ouko’s murder in 1994’ – it was 2004. And again, ‘the minister was murdered somewhere between Molo and Nakuru – he wasn’t, Kenyan and British forensic evidence showed that Ouko was shot a few feet from where his body was found at Got Alila Hill.

Irresponsible reporting has for too long got in the way of the telling of the Dr. Robert Ouko murder story

These sorts of inaccuracies have bedeviled the Ouko saga for 20 years when there has been no need for it. Dr Ouko was not killed ‘somewhere between the 12 and 16 of February, 1990’, he was murdered on February 13th between 3am and 1.00pm – eye-witness testimony and forensic evidence proved it beyond doubt. He did return from the ‘Washington trip’ with Moi and the others (the photographs proving this are in several archives in Nairobi). He was not banished on the return from Washington and his passport was not taken away – Mrs Ouko signed a statement when she handed her husband’s passport to the Scotland Yard detective John Troon. And so on, and so on.

Kipchumba Some’s article expressed the wish that the Truth Commission will hear Mr Angir’s story. The Forum hopes so too but the search for the truth will be greatly assisted by the professional reporting of known facts by the media, something that in the Ouko case has for two decades been too little in evidence.

For a longer form analysis of how, historically, the media has inaccurately (and, may we say, irresponsibly) reported on the murder of Dr. Robert Ouko, please read our article entitled ‘Robert Ouko’s murder: the media must report these 8 facts’.


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