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Kenya is becoming a country where heroes and villains are glorified in equal measures. At the frontline of this infamous glorification of villains, is the media. Instead of castigating those who are using their positions to set bad behavioural precedents, the media is being seen to celebrate law breakers. Else, how do you explain the free publicity and un-shameful hero worship that is being rained daily on the villains by Kenyan media?
As far as I can remember, the first villain to be celebrated on Media was Kamlesh Pattni, the man behind the 1990s Goldberg financial Scandal which brought Kenya to his knees. During his trial, Mr. Pattni became infamous for intimidating the judicial system by bringing in a roomful of documents mean to be used for his defence. This action earned him a celebrity status and the media went crazy about him. A few years after his suspicious acquittal (probably due to the protection of his powerful political godfathers), he started his own church (whose proceeding are shown on a TV programme), further solidifying his celebrity status. No, wonder, Churchill Show (a famous Comedy/talk show brought him in as a guest.
Another infamous favourite is Mike Sonko, a former convict turned politician who is today the governor of Nairobi County. Sonko started off as the flashy Member of Parliament for Makadara Constituency after he won a by-election, following the removal of the incumbent through a judicial process. His campaigns seemed thoroughly oiled with money and his dress code soon after his election pushed the speaker of parliament into sending him home to dress like a ‘honourable’. Mike Sonko has been known to use non-legal channels ‘to help his constituents’ and his ‘philanthropic’ side has made people from his County look the other side, even when the senator is on the wrong .Recently, he has been at loggerheads with the Nairobi Senator over the ‘Sonko Rescue Team Initiative’. This initiative is a free and unregistered service provision system, parallel to that of government with free ambulances, firefighters, hearses, wedding limousines and security Patrol vehicles. Although questions have been raised concerning the source of money used to give these free services, the media and affected citizen have been quick to celebrate the legislators without demanding transparency. This is despite the unsubstantiated rumours that Sonko might be using the ambulances to traffic drugs. Thus his endless flow of money used to provide free services. Forgive my scepticism, but where in the world third world are people provided with free ambulance services, funeral services and wedding limousines to compete with strained government services and without any accountability?
The media can also be solely blamed for creating Kenyan Socialites. And don’t interpret the name socialites in its original sense, where it defines a woman of high class, who thrives on throwing and attending parties. No, the Kenyan socialite is a woman of streets, who doesn’t technically walk the streets as we know them, but hobnobs with the rich and sells herself to the highest bidder. To maintain their customer base, these women thrive on media. They are not strangers to Instagram, Facebook and other social media which they use to post their half-naked photos. In it characteristic style of celebrating villains, the mainstream media has forced these women on us. Larry Madowo of NTV, has taken the trophy for hosting these kind of women in his show. He is so used to interviewing such airheads that he had nothing smart to ask the Nigerian Musician Davido when he was in town last weekend. No wonder some Kenyan kids are now aspiring to be like Vera Sidika, of whitened skin and silicon bosom, when they grow up.
The latest celebrated Villain on Kenyan media is the conman, Pastor Kanyari. While welcoming him to the stage during his Comedy/talk show, Churchill prided himself as the only person who has been able to get him for an interview. Kanyari’s conman ship was exposed by investigation journalists who caught him on tape couching his followers on how to pretend that they had been healed by his ‘prayers’. Instead of holding him to task, Churchill seemed to be celebrating his bad behaviour in which case he provided him with a platform to brag about how he conned money off people. The sanitization of his bad behaviour, which had impoverished thousands of Kenya was an indication that the Kenyan media is taking the wrong direction.
The media must realise that it is by virtual of its information giving function, a custodian of the communities’ moral fabric. When it airs content that seem to celebrate villains, then it tarnishes people’s way of thinking. It normalises the wrong and undermines the right thus making it easier to choose the wrong. The media has a moral responsibility to mould future generations through the celebration of heroes, and admonishment of villains.