By PETER KIMANI
The international cable television, CNN, is faced with a challenge of peculiar nature: a steady flow of criticism from viewers over a mishandled story. Now our man in Washington, Elkanah Odembo, wants an apology.
Last weekend, when some idiot threw a hand grenade at innocent Kenyans on Landhies Road, the guys in Atlanta flagged the news piece as "Eruption of Violence in Kenya," or something close to that, and showed the nation’s flag burning.
I have not watched the clip because I do not watch CNN. Yes, I’m somewhere in America but I do not watch the channel, and it is not because I can’t stand its rabid hysteria. I simply do not own a TV set. Secondly, I cannot afford monthly subscription fees of about $20 – you can work out its value against the erratic shilling.
Third, I do not watch CNN because I have been watching Al Jazeera. Yes, officially the channel is unavailable in the part of US I live because licensing authorities still won’t allow the service in this land of the free. But I still watch it – for free – over the Internet.
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This works best as one can catch up online on programmes one may have missed because virtually all major programmes are archived.
I just finished watching a piece from the series called Risking It All. This week, a TV crew followed a bunch of youngsters make an excruciating 24-day trip to sneak illegally into America. Another week, I watched a narrative of truck drivers wading through mud and maddening roads, crossing the many rivers Jimmy Cliff sings about.
I’m trying to escape CNN commentary because ten years ago, I dedicated months to write a thesis on the imperialism manifest in the way our continent is reported internationally.
So when CNN says violence has "erupted" following a cowardly attack by one faceless hoodlum; what they have in mind is the notion that we live close to nature where danger lurks, like volcanoes "erupting" without much provocation.
This "cave man" mentality means struggle for survival is a daily preoccupation, where humanitarian crises abound, and Western medics give interviews to "assess" our needs.
This is not discrimination; we are not allowed to tell our stories. Your accent and mine are not easily "understood" by international audiences. So when our pictures are used, mini-captions have to be used to replicate what we are saying on air.
Well, it’s not patronising, it’s just about clarity. Getting the facts right. And it is not true those interviews with Western medics rarely bring attention to their organisers to help in fundraising. It is only fair to give white audiences images of those who resemble them.
This is not to say imperialism in media will end with a retraction or apology. Some say negative perceptions of Africa are deliberate distortions to perpetuate the continued exploitation of the continent.
With a vigilant public and democratised space online, the future never looked so optimistic.
If you thought I unfairly praised Al Jazeera, look for a programme called The Reluctant Outlaw from their series, Witness. It tells the triumphs and tribulations of a matatu driver in Nairobi. Personal stories from perspectives rarely heard. It’s free viewing online – and free of the prejudices outlined above.
So if you see those Al Jazeera guys in town, give them a pat on the back. But tell them their news report on the Lamu port inauguration was crap. I expect better of them.
The next British ‘revolution’ shall not be properly spelt
PM Tinga returned from Brussels, or wherever he was in Europe all fired up. He first rejected the appointment of some pretty woman to head some commission or other — sorry, I don’t read the stories these days, I only look at the pictures – apparently because he hadn’t been consulted.
So, I asked myself: how was he to be consulted if he was in Europe?
I browsed for more pictures. I caught William Ruto on YouTube. I gathered from Ruto that Tinga had said they belong in prison or something close to that, apparently for crimes they are being tried for at The Hague.
Still, I could not understand where this story was going until I watched the KTN bulletin and got the whole picture.
Actually, the story started with some dossier that has been leaked, not from WikiLeaks, this time, but some other source, insinuating that there are efforts to install Tinga as the next Prezzo by any means necessary. That’s why the imprisonment of Ruto and Uhuru was necessary to reduce electoral competition.
I know the Brits are desperate to have those defence and road construction supply contracts back. Why, their economy is in tatters. Even Brazil’s has overtaken them as the world’s sixth largest economy.
But I didn’t know they would be so desperate as to convey their wishes in bad English — the language they invented.
And if they so badly want Tinga or anybody else in office, why not just install as they did in Libya? It’s pretty easy to rope in Nato.
Too much ado about Govt action it can hardly afford
It’s been a while since I saw my old friend Alfie Mutua. He used to be the face of the Government — harnessing and disseminating communication from different ministries — before some bad mannered ministers started contradicting him in public.
But the communiquÈ from Alfie this past week, if memory serves me right, indicated that all striking nurses – some 25,000 or thereabouts, had been sacked.
Nobody contradicted Alfie this time. In fact, the Medical Services Minister, Peter Nyonyo-something reaffirmed the news. I knew things were not going well when Nyonyo-something walked out of a live TV interview because he couldn’t find the humility to face the questions.
I did not watch the "walkout" interview, but now I know why Nyonyo-something couldn’t sit through it: he did not have an alternative to the striking nurses. This week, he was forced to call his bluff.
Same with the Transport minister, Amos Kimunya, who had threatened to force 14-seater matatus off our roads. The Matatu Owners Association simply told Kimunya: why don’t you put those bigger vans of yours on the road. We can do with some sleep....
And Kimunya woke up to the realisation that the Government has no matatus to call its own.