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Wednesday, February 20, 2008

EXCLUSIVE: "I wonder what's eating the Nation Media Group..."

"Established in 1960 to champion the interests of the African population in Kenya, prior to their political independence from the British govenment, the group has grown to be the dominant media company in Kenya and the rest of East and Central Africa..."

Thus begins the rapturous introduction to the "about the NMG" page on their website. But has the NMG been able to objectively stay the course?

In fact, they have failed to keep their eye on the road at least once before. Early on in the salad days of the Kibaki administration (the real one, not the bandit one), sales and readership suddenly began to dwindle. What was the cause? It was discovered that actually the NMG was in bed with the government. They lost their objectivity and loosened their hardline stance that was their bread and butter. Suddenly, they started painting the government in good stead, even when the ills that they perpetually crucified Moi for were continuing; some argue that they were on the rise. But NMG decided to sacrifice their profits on the altar of political expediency and Nyumba ya Mumbi. Were the company not publicly listed, that would be the death-knell right there. But it took the intervention of His Highness the Aga Khan (the principal share holder with 43% of the share. He is also the founder of the group) to put sanity back to the newspaper that he founded by way of a surprise reshuffle and a very stern warning. It is reported that he told Kiboro "I don't care if Kibaki is your cousin..." So out went Kiboro, and enter Linus Gitahi, formerly of SmithKline Beecham, fresh from a posting in the dusty outpost of Nigeria.

Keen to impress, Linus quickly put the House that the Aga Khan built in quick order, save for the small nuisance of a rampant sex scandal that he unsuccessfully tried to sweep under the carpet. All in all, NMG maintained a sparkle in their eye for Kibaki and his government, and continued to paint them rosy. They missed the big eye-opener in the 2005 Referendum when, still pushing the government's agenda, they went against public opinion.

Fast-forward to 2008. Kibaki has just blatantly stolen the presidential election, something that is crystal clear to every blind beggar on Kimathi Street, but not to the big boys at Nation Centre. In fact NMG has no qualms misrepresenting the facts, and has completely failed to condemn the death of democracy and ensuing violence, murder, disenfranchisement and general degeneration of Kenya into a Police state and de facto dictatorship.

Well, a little bird on a tree told me that NMG editorial staff are under firm and strict instructions from Paris (where the Aga Khan is holed up) to take a very low profile and to support Mwai Kibaki’s government as much as possible. So what has happened that the Aga Khan this time round has accepted to sacrifice NMG reputation and cast his lot with the bandit president? Even more puzzling is the fact that senior staffers at the NMG are all very jittery at the moment because word on the street is that the Aga Khan is about to announce an earth-shattering shake-up at Nation Centre...

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