William Ruto
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Madaraka Day ‘brewing scandal’ misses crucial facts and context

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President William Ruto inspects a guard of honour during the Madaraka Day celebrations at Masinde Muliro Stadium in Bungoma County on June 1, 2024. 

Photo credit: Isaac Wale | Nation Media Group

The agitated caller refused to give his name but said he was a senior police officer. He demanded to know why the NTV Weekend Edition last Friday broadcast “allegations by anonymous junior police officers without any verification.”

The allegations were that some senior police officers had stolen more than Sh20 million intended for allowances for police officers participating in the Madaraka Day celebrations in Bungoma County on June 1. 

In general, there’s nothing wrong in publishing allegations of wrongdoing by anonymous sources, so long as the sources are reliable and trustworthy.

But in this case, NTV presented one-sided allegations as if they were facts but without crucial supporting evidence, context or perspective. That somewhat undermines the story’s credibility.

It’s easy to see this if you watch the eight-minute report posted on YouTube.

The headline reads: “Over Sh20m disappeared into pockets of few senior police officers at the expense of juniors.” It’s not quoted or attributed to anyone. And the story that follows does not provide evidence that the money “disappeared”, apart from the say-so of the anonymous junior police officers. NTV did not independently confirm the allegations. 

Informative and credible

NTV did try to get information from the National Police Service (NPS) but was unsuccessful. Such information — confirming, denying or explaining — would have made the story more informative and credible. 
‘Brewing scandal’

This is how news anchor Dann Mwangi introduced the story: There is “disquiet” in the NPS “over some Sh20 million that appears to have disappeared into pockets of a few senior police officers”.

He then brings in the voice of investigative reporter Brian Obuya to narrate “the brewing scandal”. 

After narrating how the police officers were denied allowances, forced to share uniforms and “sign off chicken they never ate”, Mr Obuya concludes the story by saying: “It’s a sadness for all. Utumishi Kwa Wote. For police officers it’s a situation of serve and suffer.”

The sentiment may be acceptable in such a news story. But what’s not acceptable is presenting the allegations as facts without one iota of evidence. 

Now let’s return to, and conclude with, the attempt to get answers from the NPS. Journalistic rules require journalists to contact a person or organisation mentioned negatively so that they can give their side of the story.

Mr Obuya gave the NPS an opportunity to respond. “Now that was a week ago,” he says in the story. “By the time we were making a decision to broadcast this report, we had received no response.” 

Accurate and fair story

How long should a journalist wait for a response? The normal practice is to allow a reasonable amount of time, depending on the complexity of the story and the process of getting a response.

For a story on corruption, a day may be sufficient for an MP accused of misusing CDF money. A day — or even a week — may not be sufficient for a big organisation like the NPS, which has many departments and senior officers. 

The journalist should also consider what the response, or lack of one, will mean for the public understanding of the story and its impact.

The important thing is whether the journalist is just satisfying a rule or is committed to getting the other side of the story.

This is often shown by the journalist’s efforts in contacting the person or organisation concerned. Those efforts must be communicated to his audience to maintain credibility and trust. 

Mr Obuya should have indicated to his audience who specifically in NPS he contacted, what method of communication he used and whether he made any follow-up.

That would have demonstrated his determination to obtain an accurate and fair story.


Wandia Seaforth says the NTV headline, “STUCK IN A HIDE” used to describe Nyawe Deyo, the 76-year-old woman from the Dasanach tribe in Marsabit County, was in poor taste. (See her letter under the “Readers Have Their Say” section.

She’s right. The heading could be interpreted as meaning she’s outdated or stuck in the past with her traditional leather outfit.

The headline can be perceived to be disrespectful, demeaning or patronising and dismissive of her cultural practices and beliefs.

It’s also judgmental, criticising and disrespecting the woman’s personal decision not to wear modern clothes. 

It’s important for NTV to strive for accuracy, fairness and respect in its on-screen headlines.

Its on-screen headlines should also accurately reflect the content of the story and not sensationalise or misrepresent the information presented. 

The Public Editor is an independent news ombudsman who handles readers’ complaints on editorial matters including accuracy and journalistic standards. Email: [email protected]. Call or text 0721989264