Kenyan whistleblower commemorated in a book
A Kenyan whistleblower who exposed the largest financial scandal in Kenya is the subject of the book, 'The True Story of David Munyakei,' which will be showcased next week in the US.
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BK: The reaction was overwhelming – this was a long extended feature that had a compelling character at the center of it. It had all the elements of a good story. And anywhere politicians' soundbites are what feeds the media mill, something different and rigorous will get accolades in many a place -- because there are people who are good citizens and who care about their countrySkip to next paragraph
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JM: Where can people buy the book? Is its availability limited or controversial in any way?
BK: You can buy it at all major bookshops in Nairobi and in one or two places in Mombasa. Availability is only limited to our own ability to market and distribute it.
JM: My readers may be familiar with Michaela Wrong, a British journalist who also wrote about a Kenyan whistleblower. What are the comparative advantages and disadvantages of your experience being a native Kenyan and still living and working in the country whose corruption you exposed?
BK: Advantages: You can get a lot more info as a local. People are not as guarded when talking to you. Also, there are networks that are open to you that are not necessarily of a professional nature that can be very key in this business. An outsider always has to work within a professional purview. There is just so much info that one can get in informal circles. And through friendships and other relationships, and those are better open to the local.
Disadvantages. As a local one takes a lot for granted. And you assume and omit things that you might think as general info. One weakness I hear a lot from foreigners, is that the book does not give a proper contextual description of Goldenberg itself. There is an assumption in the book that every reader knows what it is and was all about. Also, a lot of subliminal and subconscious bias can creep in – there is a lot of anthropological comment that I would now like to do away with because I have traveled more widely in Kenya. An outsider, as long as they are professional, turns up every rock … and this helps in other ways. Because of these two things the book, I can now see, has weaknesses.
JM: What's the investigative journalism scene like in Kenya? And what's going on that no one's yet able to dig into?
BK: There is little investigative journalism in Kenya in the proper sense of the word. Media here is first and foremost commercial – and even if there are no underhand things going on, its imperatives are not that of an investigative space. Investigative journalism thrives where long hours, complex narratives, 50-50 outcomes, the high risk of being sued, highly paid professional journalists are the MO – all these things that are key for a vibrant investigative space are not conducive for profit-oriented media. Media here is about soundbites for higher circulation, and chasing advertising which impacts on content, and is run by marketing types. Newsroom are about circulation and bottom line profits, not Fourth Estate stuff that pushes invetsigative journalism.
JM: What's the narrative journalism scene like in Kenya, and in the other places you've worked? How does the style differ from what you saw in the UK, or what you've seen of American newspapers?
BK: There is really no narrative journalism in Kenya, and when it happens, only in token spaces like Kwani and like-minded institutions. I became enamoured of the form in South Africa when I read amazing writers like Jonny Steinberg and read weekly newspapers, magazines and saw T.V shows that tried to put this kind of thing together. I am a big fan of Tom Wolfe and all the new journalists from the 60s and the 70s I,e Rolling Stone. So, even before talking of style, one must ask where it is in Kenya … I just wish that we could publish two books a year because the stories are there … myriads of them …
JM: What's your next project?
BK: I am editing Kwani, working on a collaborative graphic novel and trying to jumpstart my novel which I started 3 years ago but haven’t looked at for almost a year …