Following the problems that Kenya Olympics team went through during the London games in 2012, the National Olympic Committee of Kenya came up with a strategy to counter the negative information that emerged from the camp.
However, the media personnel drawn from the leading institutions in the country did not serve the Olympics committee any better. In fact, they are the cause of all the problems the committee is going through at the moment.
A deputy sports editor of a newspaper in the country handpicked the media personnel. In turn, he picked his friends and quietly submitted the names to the Noc-K for accreditation as early as June.
It was decided that the best way was to have the editors of the leading newspapers in the country to be part of the travelling squad and this would mean that in future, all teams were to be accompanied by media corps with direct instruction to give the team as much positive publicity as possible.
In the process, the Noc-K took to their side trusted allies Chris Mbaisi (the Star), James Waindi (People Daily), Bismark Mutahi (Standard), Evelyn Watta (Sportnews Arena) and Mohammed Amin (Inno Photography).
“During the review of the London Games, it was decided that in future, all games that Noc-K takes part in, Kenya will be accompanied by journalists from all the organisations in the country. This meant that Noc-K would pay for the upkeep and allowances of all the journalists and even their accommodation.
“It worked well during that Commonwealth Games in Scotland in 2014 and most of the information that emerged; including allowances were well taken care off. Indeed, the journalists did a good job for us,” says a member of the Noc-K fundraising committee.
In Rio Olympics last month, the journalists had a brief to counter or give a general blackout to all negative information that came from the Team Kenya Olympics camp. In their brief, the stories sent back to Nairobi were to be checked by the said deputy sports editor with a long dealing with Noc-K.
However, things changed when the crew arrived in Rio for the games. The journalists were all enticed by foreign media and were at one point each journalist fought over the contacts to sell the stories to the British-based media houses that broke out all the bad stories about Kenya.
“I think it was greed that did Kenya in and the current situation is not helped by the simple fact that the journalists in Rio were all after receiving payments from the foreign press. They are good contacts and as such, the local journalists found an easy access to finding lasting relationships with the foreign media,” says a local journalist who has knowledge of what happened in Rio.
On the delivery of news to the local newspapers, pundits have pointed out to the fact that none of the news that hurt the country most, like the sending back of the athletics team manager Mike Kosgei and the doping case of John Anzrah, all came from foreign media organisations, to the consternation of the public and newsrooms in the country.
“Look at the whole scenario and you will see that that there was something completely wrong. Kenyan journalists who interacted daily with the Kenyan team in Rio Olympics were playing catch up and covering the reactions. It shows there was something so wrong with it. On the other hand, even when the story was sent, it was soft and of no benefit.
“The Kenyan delegation had sons and spouses of Noc-K officials and yet no one wrote about it. Never! Even after the list of people in Rio, including joyriders emerged, the sports editors ensured that the story was not done,” says another source that was in Rio.
Last week, during a local sports programme, things came to head-on and the differences and divisions within the sports journalism fraternity came out with the blamegame mentality.
According to him, the case of the missing kits was known to the media two weeks before the team left for Rio Olymmpics but Noc-K through their media connection and the deputy editor who serves as chairman of a local writers’ forum, managed to cover all the information and this ensured that the local camping problems were completely covered.
“The guys in the country were under instructions not to write anything negative. They were supposed to ensure that no information leaks to the public or the government. The ministry had already sorted the accommodation, allowances and even booked an apartment which was shared by the Kenyan journalists,” says a member of the Noc-K, who are all dismayed that the problems grew to what they are at the moment.
But the clandestine way the things are done that baffles and calls into question the corruption at Noc-K, it is said that most of the newspaper organisations including The People Daily, The Star and the Standard were not aware of the arrangements and had the journalists’ names presented to them just days to departure. At the same time, the lies that the journalists had made their own arrangements exposed the respective managing editors badly.
At the Standard, Bismark was forced to refund an entire amount he had been given for the travel after the management got wind of the story.
Andy Kagwa, a senior editor at the organisation is said to have confronted Bismark who readily rushed to withdraw the money from the bank and reimburse his employer.
“I was able to contact Andy Kagwa for the story and he confirmed to me that indeed, they had paid for the trip. He was forced to refund the company the cash,” says a blogger who got wind of the story and confirmed the same.
“It has been going on for a while. The sports journalists organise their own trips and only use their organisations as rubber stamps to approve the trips abroad. It is the same journalists travelling abroad for the SportPesa, MCheza and now Noc-K. It shows the arrangements that allows for corruption and unfairness in the newsrooms,” says a longserving journalist.
According to them, they were all too sure that the matter had been sealed that they thought it will be smooth sailing through and through.
To show the seriousness, the allowances were even procured ahead of the trip to Brazil Rio Olympics. In actual sense, Noc-K even collected and paid the allowances of Sh200,000 each for the journalists upfront two weeks before they left the country.
As days went by, the journalists representing the three dailies – People Daily, Standard and the Star wrote similar stories about the olympics and it has just emerged that the stories were ‘canned’ by the Noc-K pointman in the media before being sent to Nairobi. In actual fact, all the stories were the same and they were all quoting Stephen arap Soi, the man behind the scheme, who also served as general team manager for the London Games.
It is said the personality also does business with Noc-K, printing calendars and other documents, serves as in the association’s media commission.
However, on return, there have been lamentations and mistrust that emerged following the poor payment by the Noc-K authorities.
“They were all promised upto Sh400,000 each. In Scotland, they were all paid Sh100,000 each. But in Rio, they were paid Sh300,000 each on top of the apartment rent that had been catered for and the foods and local travel expenses. Mbaisi, Mutahi and Waindi had to convince their employers that they had looked for private accommodation without informing them about the Noc-K arrangement. They were also beneficiaries of payments from their employers. If they were to declare their interest, then things will turn out badly for them all.”
The whole thing is also expected to play out badly for the local sports journalists’ elections next year where it is said that the jaunts sponsored by SportPesa, MCheza, Noc-K and other organisations including the IAAF where officials solicit for paid trips in the name of providing maximum publicity to the said organisations.
In all that is said, the journalists who were in Rio Olympics event have skeletons in their cabinets and this particular one that has seen the government come down hard on the officials is bound to reverberate for some of them. The fallout is definitely to see a change in office