Why cowardly cyberbullying will not dissuade NMG from discharging its public interest mandate

For the last few days, the country has witnessed a well-cordinated, vicious, malicious and unsubstantiated online campaign against the Nation Media Group.

If the faceless purveyors of the sponsored mud-smear would have their way, NMG would be dead and ‘Resting in Peace’. #RIPNationMedia is the hashtag that the shadowy propagandists used in the latest online crusade against the Nation on the X platform (formerly known as Twitter).

The cyber warriors on Friday crafted a fake letter alleging that up to 600 NMG employees would be declared redundant by April this year. They then enlisted their surrogates to spread a full-blown hate campaign featuring video clips of senior officials in the current government who have made public pronouncements undermining press freedom. It is easy to see through this cowardly scheme.

The current wave of online disinformation started on Tuesday, January 30 2024. It is difficult to see it as a coincidence that this is the same day Nation launched the investigative series “Broken System”, an editorial project intended to shine a spotlight on the functionality of basic government services through experiential tracking of ordinary Kenyans who interface with state agencies on a daily basis.

The first edition of the Broken System series featured inefficiencies at the biggest public health referral facility in this country, Kenyatta National Hospital (KNH).

It captured the neglect and needless deaths that occur on a daily basis along KNH corridors, majorly impacting the poor who cannot afford expensive private hospitals.    

Also Read: A broken system – The death corridors of KNH

Our journalists also visited the passports issuance agency at the Ministry of Interior and National Administration, highlighting the long suffering of Kenyans seeking the all-important travel document.

At Bima House our journalists witnessed the suffering of pensioners pursuing the processing of their retirement dues from lethargic bureaucrats who frustrate them habitually with the aim of extorting bribes from their payoff.

The second edition of the investigative project published on Tuesday, February 6, highlighted the plight of more than 600,000 Kenyans who have been waiting for issuance of national identity cards since mid-November without any clarity as to when they are likely to receive the critical document.

As a responsible media house, NMG sought responses from government officials in charge of the government agencies that were the subject of focus in the editorial articles, and their rejoinders were duly included in the published stories.     

In addition, NMG journalists went to great lengths to contextualise challenges beyond the control of government officials that may have affected the delivery of services.

The story on delayed issuance of identity cards, for example, indicated that a court order stopping the printing of third-generation ID cards was to blame for the unfolding crisis.

Also Read: A broken system – Inside Kenya’s ID crisis

On Tuesday this week, a fake letter was posted on X claiming that the ink used to publish Nation newspapers could have adverse health effects on our readers.

The Kenya Bureau of Standards (Kebs) disowned the statement on its official X account, but not before it had been shared many times by online social media users.

Curiously, some individuals claiming to be Kebs officials visited the Nation printing press along Mombasa Road, ostensibly “to inspect the quality of our ink.” 

This sustained barrage of baseless attacks against NMG as an institution as well as its individual journalists is as baffling as it is unacceptable.

NMG has always opened itself to scrutiny and embraced criticism of its journalism. Nation is, indeed, the only media house in Kenya that has employed an ombudsman; a Public Editor who directly receives and publishes feedback, complaints and criticisms from our audiences.

Where we have fallen short of our high standards, we have not hesitated to publish clarifications, corrections and apologies as the situation has demanded.

The Media Council of Kenya is also an agency that parties aggrieved by our coverage have engaged to adjudicate their cases. Further, courts of law have over the years made landmark decisions for and against our journalism.

This, therefore, indicates that there is no shortage of avenues to address grievances against the Nation Media Group’s publications.  

The current online guerilla war, however, has not afforded NMG a chance to engage the seemingly aggrieved parties in a civil manner consistent with the basic tenets of a democratic and free society.

NMG as a firm believer in the rule of law, has reported these incidents to the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI), in addition to filing complaints with X.

It is our hope that DCI will investigate and bring to justice the purveyors of these false and malicious narratives.

We have also demonstrated to X that its platform is being used to spread hate and lies against a legitimate media organisation.

For six-and-a-half decades now, NMG has pursued public interest journalism with the clear intention of impacting our society positively.

We assure all audiences that we remain steadfast on this mission. 

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