The Standard Media Group on Friday announced that it had sacked one of its correspondents, Willis Awandu, for what has been reported to be involvement in bribery.
According to reports by Business Today, Awandu is said to have received a bribe of Ksh1,500 from Eunice Njoki, who works for a non-profit organisation engaged in the education of children from poor backgrounds, Maktaba Mashinani Foundation, to facilitate coverage which included a pictorial segment.
However, Awandu failed in his part of the bargain, prompting Njoki to ‘expose’ him in a Facebook page popularly known as Buyer Beware.
Seemingly, Awandu was not moved an inch by the ‘exposé’ prompting Ms Njoki to report the journo to Standard authorities.
According to Awandu who spoke to the online publication, he only received the money as ‘a lunch offer’ from Njoki to help her get the photos published, since he had already left the media house. He says he has since refunded the money twice, and sees the current development as a witch hunt.
“I left the Standard after an investigative story I was involved in about a Chinese woman engaged in shady business in Adams Arcade, which even saw us arrested and put in custody, was questioned by the editors. When Njoki contacted me, I clearly told her I was no longer there but would try to help out because I still know people there. That is when she said it had been a long time since we touched base and offered to buy lunch,” he said.
“I see this as a witch hunt because all the guys we went with for the investigative story are still at work, including the driver yet I was accused of taking a company car without authorisation,” Awandu added.
Awandu says that Njoki and her group were trying to cover up for a scandal in their organisation, where the had allegedly embezzled funds meant for books for poor kids.
“I had no access to my account at the time. I told her it would appear in due course but in fact, I ended up refunding her the Ksh 1,500 and a friend of mine I had contacted earlier also sent Ksh 1,500. So in essence, she got back double the amount she had sent me for lunch. What I hear is that they were trying to cover up for embezzlement of funds earmarked for the book donations,” said Awandu.
The act of journalists receiving money or goodies to write positive stories about an organisation or a person is popularly referred to as ‘brown envelope journalism’, and has been largely blamed for the lack of objectivity and independence in the industry.
Journalists, especially those in the mainstream media receive such money from prominent persons and politicians to drive their agendas.
In 2015, Media Council of Kenya deputy CEO Victor Bwire termed the exercise as the biggest threat to journalists’ security, since ‘they cannot bite the hand that feeds them’.
“If I give you Ksh200, you cannot write something negative about me or else I will deal with you. That is how people who bribe journalists work,” he said during a conference on the safety of journalists.