Social media is changing how we receive our news. Previously we relied mainly on the leading TV stations, radio stations and newspapers to receive information on what was happening all around us. However, the recent digital migration has led numerous Kenyan bloggers and organizations to seize the opportunity and launch their own YouTube channels. Kenyans are also spending more of their time online, and now have quick access to relevant content.
As Njeri has previously pointed out, the launch and subsequent shut down of Nairobi News by Nation Media Group, as well as the reduced circulation for many of the daily papers from various media houses is to a larger extent due to the shifting readership. Some of the most popular websites on social media are entertainment sites that dwell mostly on celebrity news. Sites like Ghafla and Mpasho News tend to rely on clickbait, which is defined as “content whose main purpose is to attract attention and encourage visitors to click on a link to a particular web page.” You can easily recognise clickbait headlines as they have a tendency to over-rely on caps lock, adjectives and exclamation marks. These headlines are either purposefully deceiving to the reader or intentionally withhold information that should be in the title.
Previously you would find a Kenyan journalist writing a sensationalised article on their personalised blog and then circulating it in order to generate clicks for their sites. However this trend seems to have been adopted by every single media house, and now the sensationalised articles are scattered in the Lifestyle, Entertainment and Opinion sections of their online platforms. It is now on these ‘softer’ platforms that these journalists write articles that mostly insult and attack women.
It seems to be a trend to publish articles that literally pick on women, regardless of age, social or marital status. You will never miss an article bashing women on their dressing, their financial choices, their approach to relationships, name it. The women who bear the brunt of these online attacks are socialites like Vera Sidika and Huddah Munroe, who are easy targets based on their lifestyle.
Not less than a fortnight ago, Citizen Digital caused major uproar when one of their writers posted an article that insinuated that women get raped due to their dressing. The article was ultimately deleted, though it took numerous tweets that called out both Citizen and the writer herself. All the while the article was still generating clicks for their site and being shared by people who shared those sentiments. It is one thing to set the stage for people to discuss a controversial article and another to aggravate women. The Citizen article promoted the idea that the women who get raped probably brought it upon themselves by dressing scantily, which is simply not true. Blaming sexual assault and rape victims for what happened to them is a blatant promotion of rape culture which is exactly why the crime is so prevalent in our society. This is just an example of one of the more inflammatory pieces. There are several writers who have become notorious for their articles, and who are unapologetic when they are called out for their bigotry. Even the female writers who attempt to counter this by abusing men they do not deem ‘worthy’ do so by comparing them to women or homosexuals, which further adds to the problem.
A lot of people get their information from the dailies as they disseminate news to the country at large and thus they are able to shape narratives and opinions of the public. They have a responsibility to the people to be fair and objective. Prior to Obama’s visit to Kenya, CNN ran a story that referred to Kenya as a ‘hotbed of terror’ which prompted Kenyans online to retaliate with the hashtag #SomeoneTellCNN as they were disgruntled with the headline that many seemed to find offensive. There is very little difference between CNN and other international media houses that paint Kenya (and Africa in general) in a negative stereotypical light and Kenyan media houses that do the same to women.
Hiding behind the common claim of “right to opinion” is pointless, as people are not entitled to ignorant opinions but informed ones. If your opinion is harmful to a group, it is no longer valid. It is this writer’s opinion that the editors of these publications do not care whether their writers opinions are inflammatory or not and are simply trafficking in the misery of others to generate clicks for their advertisers. In the recent #KEMediaFailure hashtag Kenyans voiced their opinions on how our media is steadily failing their consumers and this is one of the concerns that were raised. Kenyan media houses seriously need to re-evaluate how they and their staff see women.