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TV stations owned by main media houses in Kenya were yanked off air

By Alexander Chagema | February 5th 2018
Miguna Miguna,Opposition leader Raila Odinga, and Lawyer James Orengo after swearing in of Raila

Though constitutionally guaranteed, it seems the right to information is only assured when purveyors of information do not rub the Government the wrong way. For one week now, some television stations have been shut by the Government. To ‘rub someone the wrong way’ is an idiomatic expression that means to annoy someone.

Television stations owned by the main media houses in Kenya - Standard Group, Royal Media, and Nation Media Group - were unceremoniously yanked off air for beaming live images from Uhuru Park on January 30, 2018, against the Government's directive not to do so. To those who call the shots, that was unacceptable and action had to be taken.

Following the closure, there were statements to the effect that ‘media houses shut’. Some of those celebrating or decrying the Government’s drastic, unexplained action wrote, ‘The media has been shut down.’ Others wrote, ‘The media have been shut down’.

The question is, which of the two expressions is correct? Is it ‘media has been shut down’ or ‘media have been shut down’? It is important to recall that the term ‘media’ is the plural of ‘medium’, which means ‘an agency or the means of doing something’. Ideally, the plural form of a word should be used together with a plural verb. In the context of the aforementioned, to have written ‘media have been shut down’ would appear to be the correct form. As a collective (singular), the correct form is when the verb that follows it assumes the singular form.

Both expressions, therefore, are correct depending on the context in which the word ‘media’ is used, whether singular or plural. Arguably, and over time, the word ‘media’ has become a collective noun.

The term ‘media’, used to denote magazines, newspapers, radio, television, and online platforms, becomes plural, hence the assertion “News media in Kenya are resisting government attempts to limit their constitutional freedom." "‘The media are important in disseminating information to the public." The word ‘media’ becomes singular when referring to a particular communication source. For instance, one can say "Social media is today’s favourite source of information for many." or "The news media is an easy target of governments uncomfortable with the truth."

The cause of the trouble that the media finds itself embroiled in is basically ideological differences between the Opposition National Super Alliance and the Government. The bone of contention is electoral injustice.

So, while the Opposition gives the Government its ‘piece of mind', all that the Government wants is ‘peace of mind’. The idiom ‘giving someone a piece of your mind’ means telling an individual what you truly think of them, what they do, or what they are set to do, with which you are not in agreement.

If someone demands ‘peace of mind’, it is a polite request to be left alone. This could be directed at a bothersome partner or friend whose wishes or demands are not in tune with those of the subject.

A few days ago, I came across the urging ‘give Kalonzo piece of mind’ by different writers. This was in reference to the beating the Opposition leaders was receiving at the time on social media after he failed to show up at Uhuru Park, where his alliance leader took an oath that ruffled the Government's feathers.

The government clearly has issues with the Opposition, but rather than openly round up the ‘culprits’, it is doing everything possible to rope in the media. While writing about it, do we say ‘the Government accuses the media of complicity’, ‘the Government is accusing the media of complicity’, or ‘the government accused the media of complicity'? Grammatically, all are correct, but the context in which the words are used determines the correct form.

‘Accuses’ (verb) describes a situation (current) that is likely to stretch well into the future even as it happens now. ‘Accused’ (verb)- past tense - refers to an occurrence in the past. ‘Accused’ (noun) is the subject of discussion. ‘Accusing’ (adjective) - present tense - describes what is currently taking place, for example, ‘Yes, I am accusing you of stealing my pen.' Someone reporting this to a fourth person would say: ‘He accused him of stealing his pen.'

Following Miguna Miguna’s arrest as a consequence of the standoff, someone asked the question, “Who is more cleverer now?” By adding the suffix ‘er’ to the word ‘clever’, it assumes the meaning of ‘more than’. It is proper to say ‘extremely clever’, ‘very clever’, or ‘clever than’ (comparison). To say ‘more cleverer’ is to repeat oneself.


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