At the wake of January 22, Kenyans were treated to a bold headline on Daily Nation page five which read ‘Kenyan journalist sells Dusit photos at Sh50,000 each’.
The Nation accused the photographer, Mr Kabir Dhanji, of “putting a price on lifeless bodies of innocent people”
The story would later be picked by several blogs despite Nation having pulled it down, to the disadvantage of the photographer.
The criticism from all quarters of professional journalists and general public was too much for the media house, which is experiencing dwindling fortunes. This forced the editors to pull down the story and in its place issue an apology.
“An article on the sale of photographs from the 14 Riverside Drive attack, published on this site earlier, contained inaccuracies which we wish to correct. The article suggested that Kenyan photographer Kabir Dhanji had put the photographs up for auction at a rate of Sh50,000 each. The article also erroneously referred to visual media company Getty Images as an auction firm. The correct position is that Mr Dhanji supplied his photographs to media agency AFP, which has a partnership with Getty to sell its photographs. The photographer will not earn any money from the sale of the photographs by Getty Images.
We apologise to Mr Dhanji and AFP for the embarrassment and inconvenience the article has caused them,” said Nation in a statement.
The Media Council of Kenya (MCK) has however faulted the biggest media house in Kenya for overlooking the small details in such a publication where more than five editors handle a story before going to press. It is an unforgivable sin in journalism to publish an unveried story, that does not listen to both sides of the story.
In Nation’s story, Mr Dhanji’s voice is not heard, on which under normal circumstances an experienced editor would disregard without a second question.
“At least four journalists, possibly five, handle a story before the reader sees it, in case of a newspaper. A reporter files the story. A news editor approves it for publication. This is a senior journalist. She/he assigns the story to a sub-editor, the unsung hero of journalism who checks, rewrites, corrects the facts, sniffs for libel and other legal and ethical elements, lays the page and writes the headline. The fourth journalist is the revise editor, another experienced scribe who gives the green light for publication. A fifth senior journalist, production/quality editor, might throw an eye on the page before it goes to press,” says MCK through their media watch magazine, The Observer.
MCK observes that small stories might escape this rigorous process, but not the main story on a page like the Nation’s Dhanji report.
In their publication, The Observer reads malice in Nation’s story, a possible character assassination.
“The Code of Conduct for the Practice of Journalism in Kenya stipulates that persons in the news about whom negative allegations are made should be given the opportunity to respond to the claims. The Nation denied Dhanji that right,” adds MCK.
To MCK, “the Nation failed. The paper hurt Dhanji and so many people by its astounding recklessness. The apology is fine. We hope Dhanji and the others affected can move on.”
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