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War on the Media

William Ruto’s War on the Media

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Deputy President William Ruto has started a campaign to discredit and demean news organisations so that the public will not believe negative stories about him as his 2022 presidential bid kicks into high gear.

Ruto’s 2022 bid is, arguably, in trouble, partly because of the unity between President Uhuru Kenyatta – his ally until March 2018 – and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga, and the Building Bridge Initiative (BBI) that seeks to change the way Kenya is being governed. Now, he wants to ramp it up by demeaning his real and perceived enemies including the media.

Ruto has also weaponized ‘fake news’ language to attack the free press.

In mid-October, he posted a tweet bashing a news headline by People Daily newspaper about a possible clash between him and President Kenyatta over the BBI.

“NONSENSE. The politics of personality cults that breed negative ethnicity and division as it poisons our nation are primitive and beneath us. We will agree as Jubilee established as a national movement which elevate our discourse to the realm of IDEAS & ISSUES and not personality,” he wrote on Twitter.

Recently, he has called Kenya’s leading newspaper, the Daily Nation ‘Fake News’, saying it should ‘it should either register as a political party then compete with Jubilee or operate a gutter journal for makotsi to run.’ His comment came after the Daily Nation published a report about the deteriorating relationship between him and President Kenyatta, after the president refused Ruto’s plea to call for a Jubilee parliamentary group.

Ruto’s use of the term ‘Fake News’ has become persistent. His attacks play well with those who support him, making them to believe negative stories about him were sponsored by his political opponents.

“The now persistent, obviously sponsored FAKE NEWS by hired bankrupt media that finds it difficult to make a sale without the name Ruto. Bure kabisa. Riswa!” he wrote on Twitter after Daily Nation published a story on a land ownership row involving the deputy president.

According to Daily Nation, a lobby group wrote to the directorates of Criminal Investigations and Public Prosecution as well as to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission seeking to have Ruto investigated over an irregular purchase of a 900-acre parcel of vast ranch belonging to former Vice President Joseph Murumbi.

“Kenyans can see through standard media’s desperate gutter journalism lies of drama,” he said after The Standard newspaper carried out a story headlined ‘Uhuru in new airport drama over Ruto ally.’ In another incident, he called The Standard ‘fertile evil and notoriously desperate.

The deputy president accuses media outlets of using his name ‘Ruto’ to get audience – suggesting without mentioning his name, people won’t buy or read newspapers.

His attacks on the media don not just threaten truth; they create an atmosphere in which journalists are in real danger. This attack will erode the democratic ideals of this country.

Maybe the deputy president wants to be deputy-editor. Ruto is a man who cannot stand to be questioned and he feels the heat from the BBI proposals which could scuttle his wild ambitions. Attacking the media could be his one of his campaign agenda for 2022.

Although mainstream media get facts rights for the most part, they do make mistakes, and need to do better and improve on their reporting based on facts and truth.

News organisations in Kenya need to continue to do their jobs, and do them better than ever, and never succumb to threats from politicians like William Ruto.

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