NAIROBI — The relationship between government officials and the press in Kenya took a sour turn on Sunday when Trade Cabinet Secretary Moses Kuria launched an attack against Nation Media Group (NMG) journalists, going so far as to describe them as “prostitutes” in Swahili on social media.
The inflammatory tweet read, “Kwa wale malaya wa Agha Khan pale Nation Centre. You can still advertise auctioneers and funeral announcements. We will not stop those“. The remark came in response to a series of articles from NMG that critiqued alleged government corruption.
Kwa wale malaya wa Agha Khan pale Nation Centre. You can still advertise auctioneers and funeral announcements. We will not stop those
— CS Moses Kuria (@HonMoses_Kuria) June 18, 2023
Threats to Cut Government Spending on Advertising
Speaking at the Akorino Annual Convention in Embu County, Kuria threatened to cut government advertising and publicity on NMG, a move that could significantly affect the media house’s revenue. He openly questioned whether NMG was playing a watchdog role or acting as part of the opposition, even warning government agencies that those continuing to advertise with NMG risk losing their jobs.
“NMG needs to decide if they are a newspaper, broadcasting house, a media station or an opposition party,” Kuria intimidated the media group, which runs several popular platforms including NTV, Daily Nation, Nation Africa, and Nation FM. He added, “I have stated that starting tomorrow if I see any government agency placing adverts in Nation Media, the person responsible will be fired”.
This confrontation came shortly after NMG aired an exposé alleging that the ministries of Trade and Agriculture had misappropriated over Ksh6 billion in an oil scandal, triggering significant public backlash and government scrutiny.
Mutuma Mathiu Response
Mutuma Mathiu, the former Editorial Director of NMG, responded to Kuria’s insult on Twitter. “I can confirm that the folks at Nation are not malaya. They are some of the brightest journalists on the continent. And they are doing a brave, thankless job of exposing questionable deals in government. What kind of government calls taxpayers malaya?” Mathiu is a respected figure in Kenyan journalism, having led the digital transformation of the Kenyan media scene and engaged Kenyans with his thought-provoking opinion pieces on matters of governance and social and economic issues.
I can confirm that the folks at Nation are not malaya. They are some of the brightest journalists on the continent. And they are doing a brave, thankless job of exposing questionable deals in government. What kind of government calls taxpayers malaya? 🚮
— Mutuma Mathiu 🇰🇪 (@mutuma_mathiu) June 18, 2023
As of this writing, the Media Owners Association, the Editors Guild, and the Media Council of Kenya have yet to respond to Kuria’s attack on Nation Media House.
The incident has sparked a national debate on the relationship between the media and government, the role of journalism as a watchdog, and the limits of free speech. As the dust settles, it will be seen whether this event leads to further tensions or prompts a renewed commitment to press freedom and government transparency.