Bold, unperturbed and relentless are three words that can describe former NTV crime and investigative reporter, Steve Juma. He describes himself as the voice of the voiceless and various stories he covered ascertain this.
Juma, currently Tana River County director of communications, spoke exclusively to Kenyans.co.ke and it was the also the first time the guru opened up on life after media and the near-death experiences he had while on NTV assignments.
On Tuesday, January 28, Juma, who worked alongside NTV's new special projects editor, Dennis Okari, emotionally detailed how he was thrown into boots of cars severally and was even threatened with death, all in the name of chasing the truth. However, this did not deter him from the pursuit of justice.
"I experienced daring incidents where I had to deal with criminals to give me information and some of them still haunt me today. I worked with Okari on a documentary dubbed Siri ya Uhalifu that placed me in the Directorate of Criminal Investigation's radar. The officers were always asking for the identity of my sources. But as a journalist, I had to protect them for they also threatened to murder me if I would sell them out.
"I received numerous threats from the police and I even informed Nation Media Group of my woes. I had to live smart," the celebrated journalist narrated.
Juma who covered landmark stories such as lawyer Willy Kimani's murder case, the Moi Girl's School (Nairobi) fire, the late IEBC ICT director Chris Msando's murder case amongst many others, detailed that his life was affected by his career as many people avoided him, even when he was in trouble, because they thought that he was out to investigate them.
"I could not be at a police station as they'd see like I am investigating a matter. There is a time I went to report a traffic offence committed against me and no one wanted to see me at the OB desk. I was rushed to The OCPDs office to sign a visitors book," Juma recalled.
He went on to rally for more support for journalists, especially those in the investigative departments, lamenting that many who assaulted journalists walked scot-free.
"My life was in danger many times. I made enemies in duty. For those who have been threatening journalists in the past, maybe their cases are gathering dust at the police station. No one has ever been arrested or jailed. There are several journalists out there who have been threatened several times and it has become a way of life. Usually, nothing is done on those who issue threats and police never follow up on complaints which leave the reporters apprehensive. It's true that no story is worth any journalist's life but it is worth noting that there are explosive pieces that are left alone, because no reporter is sure of their safety.
"There is also no proper counselling for journalists who have witnessed terror incidents. They are the first in the line of duty, especially camera personnel. Journalistic bodies should do more than they are doing. Journalists go through a lot and at the end, someone fires you. Think about that depression. That's why even police officers commit suicide due to the depression," Juma urged.
For him, he was lucky to have gone through counselling through a Nation Media Group initiative. Juma also urged the Media Council of Kenya to enhance its fight for journalists.
"Even though the MCK is not a prosecuting body, in my view, it's toothless compared to other professional bodies like the Law Society of Kenya which goes out to paralyze court processes when atrocities are committed against one of their own. Another lot of journalists, county corresponds are treated as second class journalists yet are sources of the news from the counties. They need to be equipped in terms of tools and finances. It's unfortunate that some of these reporters suffer in silence," Juma argued.
He further, bemoaned the state of investigative journalism in Kenya, arguing that it was dead and little is being done to speak for the poor voices.
"My concern is that investigative journalism died a long time ago. If you want to speak against the government, then you are tagged anti-government. That's why currently, we do not hear of land grabbing cases, or fraud cases being exposed. Do you think something is not happening? I believe in the near future a big scandal will explode.
"I used to do a segment known as Sauti ya Haki. I spoke for the voiceless. Poor people suffer, they are guilty until proven otherwise. The innocent are also murdered ruthlessly. The police should observe the rule of law and follow the stipulated procedures while dealing with anyone," he cried out.
Juma exited NTV in August 2018, upon being appointed to the County Government of Tana River by Governor Dhadho Godhana. Juma disclosed that the transition was not easy as he was switching from a professional field to a political field.
"It is a political office that is very challenging, but I had a way to respond to that. I adjusted but for a crime investigative reporter, you walk around and people still have that mentality that you want to investigate and spy. You deal with politicians and you have to be cautious of how to deal with them.
"Running the itinerary is also challenging, it has to be flexible. You overwork and there are no working hours. No one denies you that but you have to avail yourself. You have to deal with constituents and counter critics, because you are the spokesperson of the county. You also have to witness incidents forehand. You have to rush to fire incidents as a normal journalist," Juma informed.
Our sources at Tana River County, lauded the journalist for his impecable work ethic and his bond with the governor, asserting that he still fights for the rights of journalists and the disadvantaged in the society.
"The director copes well with everyone, from the management to the constituents. He has also ensured that the MCAs are kept under check and balance. There was a time he defended journalists who were thrown out of the county assembly and the matter is still pending at the MCK. He has also exposed them for rumours on budgets," our contact described Juma.
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