Fired NMG Journalist: Govt Pressure Led to My Sacking

  • The Nation Centre building in Nairobi's Kimathi Street where the Nation Media Group offices are located. Monday,October 21, 2019
    The Nation Centre building in Nairobi's Kimathi Street where the Nation Media Group offices are located. Monday, October 21, 2019
    Simon Kiragu
    Kenyans.co.ke
  • A former Nation Media Group (NMG) Journalist on Wednesday, March 11, has sought the help of the Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ) over what he describes as the wrongful termination of his employment contract with the publisher.

    Ndung'u makes a startling allegation against his former employer claiming that NMG was pressured by some government officials to fire him. In a tell-all interview with Kenyans.co.ke, Journalist Ndung'u Gachane, who has previously written at least one Daily Nation front-page article, claimed that on Tuesday, March 10, he was unceremoniously shown the door without being notified a month before as is the norm at the Kimathi Street-based publication.

    He recounted that a number of high ranking government officials including a cabinet secretary had attended an event at Gekoigo, Maragwa in Murang'a in the week beginning Monday, February 24, who demanded a certain angle of the story carried in the next day's paper.

    "I have been working with [Daily] Nation on a one-year renewable contract. Two weeks ago, the CS was in Murang'a with his colleagues who were inspecting various development projects and they prepared for President Uhuru Kenyatta's visit later this month.

    Former Nation Media Group journalist Ndung'u Gichane
    Former Nation Media Group journalist Ndung'u Gichane
    Daily Nation

    "On the same day, they were scheduled to attend the homecoming of Madam Wambui Nyutu (National Cohesion Integration Commission commissioner) held at Maragwa. Under normal duties, we filed the stories, for development agenda saying the four CSs visited the area. 

    "I was also tasked by editors to write about Peter Keneth's views about the BBI. The following day was Saturday, unfortunately, none of the two stories were published. The only thing published was a photo of Peter Keneth. That was where the heat came from.

    "The CS called and complained that 'one of your correspondents in Murang'a has been paid.' In this matter, I was not told who called. Shortly after receiving a call from a senior editor, a lady (from The CS's office) who asked me 'where is the story'. I told her that I had not seen the newspaper.

    "It turned out that stories were never published. I received a call from the feature desk saying that I had been bribed by Deputy President William Ruto's men. I did a story for development and not an endorsement.

    "On the same material day at 7 p.m., the lady CS' office called me and asked me which story I was doing, I told her I was to do a story on development, she told me to push on development story. 

    "Yesterday, Tuesday, March 10, I received a call from my boss telling me there is a letter for me at the office. The letter talked about the termination of the contract. When you want to be fired, you are given reasons for dismissal. They never talked about any complaint, never said I breached company bylaws but only gave me a letter of termination.

    "For the first time, I received a call from the senior editor telling me that the CS is complaining that the story was not done. This could have been my third year at the company if I got to December and there has never been a single complaint," narrated Gachane to Kenyans.co.ke.

    The reporter disclosed that he forwarded the matter to the Kenya Union of Journalists for further investigation, a fact that was corroborated by a representative at the union.

    "It is true he reported the matter to us. We are still engaging with him and depending on the information he is going to give to us will inform the decision of the union," a representative from KUJ told this reporter.

    Gachane has had a fair share brush with law enforcement authorities including in August 2018 when he was arrested outside the Murang'a Water and Sanitation Company (Muwasco) as he attempted to take pictures of police officers manning the institute’s gate.

    Muwasco employees accused him of bias in a front-page article titled 'In Murang’a a battle of egos pits Wa Iria, Munga.' 

    “Even after identifying myself as a journalist they attacked and handcuffed me. I recorded a statement at the Murang’a Police Station and I hope that action will be taken,” he stated at the time.

    Efforts to reach the senior editor mentioned by Ndung'u for a comment were futile as our calls and text messages were unanswered. Equally, the NMG Human Resources office redirected us to their Murang'a office where our calls were not answered. 

    We contacted NMG Editorial Director whom the journalist mentions in a screenshot doing rounds on social media, but the time of publishing he was yet to respond to our queries. 

    Accusations of government interference on editorial independence that the media in Kenya have tireless fought for are serious, and as such, Ndung'u's claims can only be interpreted as allegations until NMG's side of the story can be heard. The Kenya Union of Journalists is considering the matter and a statement from the association is expected as the matter unravels.

    A photo of a team of Journalists at Mitihani House During Releasing of KCPE Results on Monday November 18, 2019.
    A photo of a team of Journalists at Mitihani House during the release of KCPE Results on Monday, November 18, 2019.
    Simon Kiragu
    Kenyans.co.ke