Media Council Condemns Coverage of Priest’s Death

July 12, 2023

The Media Council of Kenya(MCK) has reprimanded a section of the media for the manner in which they reported the death of Fr. Joseph Kariuki Wanjiku.

The 43-year-old Catholic Priest at the Archdiocese of Nairobi(St. Peter’s Church Ruai) passed away hours after spending Saturday night with his alleged lover, with multiple mainstream and social media outlets running the story on their platforms.

On Tuesday, July 11, 2023, however, MCK accused the media of sensationalizing the cleric’s death and lacking empathy.

“An analysis conducted by the Council subjected to the test of empathy, intrusion into grief and shock and the “Do no harm” principle has shown that most of the coverage in both mainstream and social media was unprofessional, unnecessarily intrusive, and lacks common decency as provided for in the Code of Conduct for the Practice of Journalism in Kenya,” MCK said in a written statement.

The Council noted that there were several inconsistencies in how the story was reported and the dignity of the subjects involved was violated.

“The use of sensational words and derogatory terms was insensitive and uncalled for, violating the dignity of the subjects involved and resulting in invasion of the individual’s privacy.

“A review of the media coverage shows inconsistencies in reporting facts of the story, sensational headlines and breaches of the code of conduct on accuracy, fairness, integrity, accountability, obscenity, taste and tone,” the statement added.

The council cautioned the media to protect the dignity of individuals and adhere to journalistic ethos.

“The Code of Conduct for the Practice of Journalism in Kenya requires that: In cases involving personal grief and shock, inquiries shall be made with sensitivity and discretion. Journalists shall present news with integrity, common decency and respect the dignity of the audience as well as the subject of news,” MCK stated.

The council’s statement comes after MCSK CEO Ezekiel Mutua also faulted a leading media house over what he termed as an ‘insensitive’ headline on the same story.

“One of the most sickening and callous headlines I have ever seen in the news was “Nzi kafia kidondani” on one of the leading TV stations at 7 pm yesterday.

“It was referring to the death of a catholic priest in Nyeri. This is heartless, insensitive and unprofessional in the extreme. You can’t mock a dead person that way no matter the cause of his death…He’s human, deserving of respect. He has relatives and friends who are mourning him,” Mutua said.

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