How to Bust Fake Journalists

Journalists docked at a media center while covering an event.
Journalists docked at a media centre while covering an event.

In recent times cases of quack journalists have increased. Some have been caught red-handed duping government officials, business people and even the common mwananchi. spoke to Director Media Training and Development at the Media Council of Kenya, Victor Bwire, to establish how people can flush out these fraudsters who give a bad name to the Fourth Estate.

Bwire stated that everyone who identifies as a journalist is accredited with the Media Council and are also issued with a press card that they use to identify themselves.

He noted that members of the public who interact with journalists should ask for their press cards and check for certain security features on the card.

File image of press cards issued by Media Council of Kenya
File image of press cards issued by Media Council of Kenya

First, the card has a unique media council number that starts with MCK01. This is a distinctive security feature that the MCK notes is not found in fake press cards that the masqueraders use.

"Quacks usually miss that number when they attempt to duplicate theirs at River road. This security feature was worked on to avoid instances that we have been seeing where people are found with fake cards," Bwire stated.

The MCK Director also shared that there is a hotline number that the public can call or send a text to establish if the press card being shown is valid.

When one sends a text of the journalist's press card number to the MCK hotline, you will be given details of the person in question and you are informed if they are recognized by the council.

"There is a free hotline that one can send a text of the number to know if the person is an accredited journalist. If a person is not accredited with the MCK they will not be in our database," Bwire noted.

To curb incidents where fake journalists show up to press conferences and even ask for bribes promising not to run damaging stories, the MCK wrote to government departments and advised them to always ask for press cards.

Further, the MCK also got in touch with hotels that rent out their facilities for press conferences informing them to always ask for press cards and ensure all people identifying as journalists are actual members of the press.

There is also a list of all recognized journalists in Kenya on the MCK website. The list has names of all journalists in the country and they are listed per county, if a journalist's name is missing from the list the MCK stated that they are not accredited with the council.

Last month two people were charged in a court of law for impersonating journalists. Thomas Ochieng Owino and Fred Odanga Azelwa were accused of posing as journalists with the intent of gaining access to the Kenyatta International Convention Centre (KICC) in Nairobi's Central Business District, a building housing Senator's offices.

The two were arrested by detectives from the Directorate of Criminal Investigations (DCI) attached to Parliament Police Station.

In 2020, three people impersonating Citizen TV journalists were arrested in Nakuru town while seeking an interview from former NACADA Chairman John Mututho.

The impersonators, two men and one woman, are said to have pretended to be Citizen TV journalists from Nairobi County. They, however, failed to produce their accreditation after Mututho became suspicious of their identity.

Police officers and Nakuru County Intelligence officers rushed to the scene, arrested the three and took them to the Mwariki Police Station. Cops discovered a camera, one tripod and a microphone in their possession.

Undated file image of two men in police handcuffs
A file image of two men in police handcuffs after being apprehended in August 2019.
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