MCK calls for probe into deaths of journalists as tributes pour in

NATIONAL |

Veteran science writer Gatonye Gathura and Standard Group journalist, Joshua Nanjero. [Courtesy]

Before his demise, veteran health and science journalist Gatonye Gathura delved into the controversial topic of vasectomy.

On his Rocket Science blog, he explained how male sterilisation protects women against ovarian cancer. This was on October 19, six days before his body was found in a thicket in Naivasha.

In the piece, he wrote that few Kenyan men were taking up vasectomy. In Kenya, he noted, only about 700 men get vasectomy annually with the number dropping to 334 in 2020 due to Covid-19 hospital service disruptions.

This, he said, was an insignificant number compared to the about 10,000 women who take tubal ligation in Kenya annually.

He was however optimistic that this would change, with a new study led by Jacqueline Chesang of the University of Nairobi, and the University of Canterbury, New Zealand, showing vasectomy protects women against ovarian cancer. This, he wrote, may incentivise more men to go for it.

The story was one among many that had defined Gatonye as a prolific writer. From internationally acclaimed stories, thought-provoking, to those that got you on the edge of your seat as you read them, he wrote them all. He was an old hand in health and science journalism.

Those who knew him attest to the fact that he was good at his craft.

Standard Group’s Editor-in-Chief Ochieng’ Rapuro reminisced Gatonye as a devoted journalist and a family man.

Standard Group’s Editor-in-Chief Ochieng’ Rapuro. [Collins Oduor, Standard]

“We are saddened by the tragic demise of Gatonye. He was one of our strongest and most dedicated science writers. It’s a loss for us but a bigger one for his family. We at The Standard Group wish to convey our sincerest condolences,” said Rapuro.

“The media fraternity in Kenya is getting hit hard. Only veterans feel it. We have lost Gatonye Gathura, one of the living legends in Health and Science Journalism. I worked with him for years at the Nation Media Group (NMG). I have never met another so committed to that field. Go well bro and RIP,” wrote Wahome Thuku, his former colleague and friend.

Moses Njagih, a veteran journalist and a former colleague said, “Surely, why would anyone go after Gatonye? Why would anyone want him dead? Rest in peace. May your killers know no peace.”

Gatonye went missing on October 26.

His body was traced to Naivasha Sub-county Referral Hospital morgue. Police say on October 26 the body was booked at the facility as an “unknown male adult”.

Authorities said Gatonye’s body had been found dumped on the Naivasha-Mai Mahiu Road on the day he was reported missing.

After a month of being preserved at the morgue as an “unknown male adult”, the Registrar of Persons used fingerprints to establish his identity on November 26.

Police said Gatonye might have been strangled. A copper wire was found around his neck when his body was retrieved from the roadside in Kihoto Estate, Naivasha.

The news of his death has sent shockwaves across the media industry. So much so that the Media Council of Kenya (MCK) is now calling for speedy investigations into his demise.

“The MCK joins the family, friends, and media fraternity in mourning the late Mr Gatonye Gathura, a veteran Health and Science journalist. He worked for the Standard Group, Nation Media Group and also ran a blog called Rocket Science,” MCK said in a statement.

“He will be remembered for his hard work and commitment to the media industry. We appeal to the police to open investigations into the circumstances surrounding the death. May his soul rest in eternal peace.”

The grief in the media fraternity was however compounded on Thursday, following the demise of yet another Standard Group journalist, Joshua Nanjero.

Nanjero's 2018 column. [File, Standard]

Nanjero was a cartoonist for the weekly Nairobian newspaper.

His last column published in the November 26 edition was dedicated to the memory of rhumba legend Josky Kiambukuta Londa.

Londa was a Congolese performing artiste, singer, songwriter and composer whose songs touched many hearts, including that of Nanjero.

What stood out in the column, however, was that amid the witty jokes and caricatures, Nanjero found time to thank his readers for their support during his accident.

“Thanks to all of you who stood by me following my accident. God bless you all,” he wrote.

The Kenya Editors Guild is also calling for a probe into the death of Nanjero and Gatonye.

“The Kenya Editors Guild is deeply concerned over the death of journalists Gatonye Gathura and Joshua Nanjero. We call on the authorities to take quick action to establish the facts around the two deaths,” said KEG President Churchill Otieno.

The deaths of Nanjero and Gatonye are just the latest in what has been a dark fortnight for the media fraternity.

Four journalists have died in the last two weeks. The others are Hudson Wainaina – also a former photojournalist with The Standard – and Domitila Katila, a long-serving Nation Media Group staffer.

Hudson worked in various positions at The Standard, Kenya Times and People Daily.

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