The best description of television presenter Jeff Koinange I ever heard was that he is like a human cartoon. And it seems that the greater the apparent threat to his political godfathers, the more Koinange becomes almost a parody of himself – a parody characterised by strange body jerks, weird facial grimaces and painfully tortured pronouncements – as he falls over backwards (or more often leans dangerously forward) to lick the egos of the carefully selected guests appearing on his K24 programme Capital Talk.
It is amusingly cringe-worthy stuff. But beyond the sniggers, it is also very serious. Koinange appears to be a man on a mission, and that mission is to push the notion that Prime Minister Raila Odinga was behind the International Criminal Court process that has seen three high-ranking public officers and a journalist charged with heinous crimes against fellow Kenyans.
The Second Schedule to the Media Act 2007has a code of conduct that exhorts journalists to distinguish clearly “between comment, conjecture and fact” and to “vigorously resist undue influence from … powerful individuals and special interest groups”. What Koinange has been doing in his programme is in direct contravention of those guidelines.
The TV station K24 is owned by Mediamax, which in turn is majority, if not wholly, owned by the Kenyatta family. Presumably with his employer’s blessing, Koinange has been openly using his programme to engage in what can only be viewed as blatant propaganda and insinuated falsehoods against the Prime Minister. Does this constitute hate speech? I don’t know, but in pursuit of his objective, there is no one Koinange loves to have more frequently ‘on the bench’ than Miguna Miguna.
Miguna used to work for the Prime Minister. After an acrimonious falling-out following Miguna’s suspension from office, he was offered his job back. He refused it. That was the cue, on January 12, for a warm welcome from Koinange for yet another cosy chat on the bench – the fourth in as many months. On each of these occasions Koinange has clearly been egging Miguna on to say things that go beyond, and are not supported by, Miguna’s statements on the programme. To give Miguna his due, while he has his own axe to grind, he has more or less resisted being forced into saying anything more than he means.
Nevertheless, the inescapable conclusion is that it is only the identity of the person at whom Miguna’s attacks are directed that make him such a frequently desirable guest for Koinange, who uses Miguna to continue his own relentless pursuit of his quarry. In the January 12 programme, Koinange says to Miguna: “The Hague – the big decision is coming up [the programme aired just before the ICC confirmation of charges]. You must have thoughts because – you were partially involved in that as well.”
The truth of the matter is that Miguna has openly declared he spoke to officers of the ICC when they were in Nairobi, and he did so entirely as a private citizen. His actions had nothing to do with the Prime Minister and Miguna had no evidence other than his own opinions to offer. It is a point emphasised by Miguna himself in response to Koinange’s question: “Were you ever interviewed by the investigators – at the ICC?”
Miguna answers: “Uhhhh , uhhh, I spoke with people from the ICC, many times, uhhh, whether you want to call them investigators I don’t know. I’m not a witness AND I DIDN’T HAVE MATERIAL EVIDENCE THAT CAN BE USED [my emphasis] but you know, I have my opinions, I have my observations and I have an impression I can give, and I’ve given that …”
Later in the interview, Koinange prompts him back to this topic with: “OK, let’s come back to The Hague. Big decision this week.” Miguna protests that it would be irresponsible of him to speculate on the cases. This does not satisfy Koinange. He persists: “Were you involved at all with the ICC in that period? Because I saw you a couple of times when we went to The Hague.”
It is well-documented, best of all by Miguna himself in his article published in the Star on April 12, 2011, that Miguna went to The Hague during the initial hearings simply as an individual and as an observer – “in fulfilment of my solemn undertaking to [Star] readers”, as he put it in the article. This does not deter Koinange from his insinuations. He persists: “Why were you the only one? How come no one from PNU or ODM-K or anyone else was INVITED [his emphasis] or went to The Hague to give this kind of information?”
Miguna sets him straight: ‘No, I did not give the information at The Hague. I spoke with the ICC people right here in Kenya. I never went to The Hague to speak with the ICC. And I don’t know what PNU or other parties did. And I don’t know what any other person other than myself did.”
Despite the fact that Miguna has already said he only gave ICC officers his personal opinions, Koinange presses on: “On behalf of the Prime Minister, on behalf of ODM, on behalf of who?” Miguna replies, “Both, and on behalf of myself as a Kenyan, as a Kenyan who believes that impunity should not go unpunished, as a Kenyan who believes there should be justice to victims. Yes, I can tell you that.”
This is clearly not the direction Koinange wants Miguna to take at all, so he moves in with: “But being who you are, they must have taken your word as law, because obviously you’re a professional …” Miguna responds, “No, no, no, they can’t. You see, ICC people are professionals. They don’t take evidence based on title. Otherwise, Uhuru and Muthaura’s word would have been the law. Kibaki’s word, on behalf of Muthaura, would be the law. Bashir’s word would be the law. So they don’t do that. They assess what you say, assess your credibility, and see whether or not what you are saying is reliable and credible.”
Koinange is not about to let go and he plunges on rather desperately with: “But did you volunteer yourself to talk to the ICC or were you assigned [insinuation: by the Prime Minister] this task to go forth and talk to the ICC?” Miguna replies: “No, uhhh, I don’t know what happened. I think I was contacted by someone, and I think I spoke with the Prime Minister and he told me I can speak with them and I did.”
There is a huge gulf between the Prime Minister’s being consulted as a matter of courtesy by an employee planning to give his opinions to the ICC, and the Prime Minister’s assigning that task to someone as his representative. Miguna has never claimed he was so assigned by the Prime Minister, nor was he.
Miguna then says that ICC correspondence going to President Kibaki, Prof George Saitoti and the Prime Minister was also copied to him when he was working in his role as adviser to the Prime Minister on coalition affairs. Despite the fact that this was obviously shared, not secret, information, Koinange sees an advantage he can press. “Wow!” he says in hushed tones, and then: “You were in close contact with them [ICC]?”
Miguna: “In some way, yes.”
Koinange (hopefully): “Ocampo?”
Koinange: “Just the people around him?”
Koinange: “This decision, is it a landmark decision coming?”
Miguna: “It’s a landmark decision.”
Koinange: “And if it does … what you may have told them could have something to do with it.”
Miguna: “No, no, it can’t, because I was not used as a witness. [PNU activist Dr Peter] Kagwanja was a witness, hahaha, his publication was used, but none of the things I said was evidence …They decided who they were going to call as witnesses and what information they were going to relay to the judges.” Koinange (not giving up): “But you may have helped them in that respect.”
Miguna: “Of course I did. I think I did, in terms of analysis. Yes, I mean, for all I know, they are reading even my articles in the newspapers, yes, so in that way, and there were a lot of people who were writing in the newspapers, so in that way, they relied on all kinds of evidence, and you can see they relied directly on Kagwanja.”
Miguna has thus clearly stated that he volunteered only his personal opinions to the ICC. He thinks the ICC might have read his newspaper articles (which they might well have). But by his own admission, the opinions he offered were not considered valuable as evidence. It is interesting to note that what Koinange was trying to do was not lost on viewers. Online blog comments attached to Koinange’s interviews with Miguna include:
“Jeff Koinange u always push miguna to say bad things on raila n you really like it am telling you are one of his haters we know”
“Jeff Koinange has smelt blood. Why don’t you invite Maina Njenga and tell his story on the fallout with the guy you call a brother from another mother?”
“… Jeff, it is a huge payday for you, huh. You sure are an effective hatchet man. Word of caution though … [Miguna] may just be your waterloo”
“This is the type of interview I will call unprofessional and gossiping interview. Jeff continues to drain himself in the unprofessional drainage system. Has gone gutter press”
“Jeff is really enjoying this”
“OK. Just asking: what is the role of this Jeff Koinange in this show? Is it to incite the speakers, or to objectively draw them out and have them talk about some serious stuff … Oh! And by the way, is he planning to get the other side of the story on the show as well?”
“I love the way Jeff is inciting him!”
“Jeff’s energy begins to wane when he sees that Miguna is no longer saying what he wants him to say. At 4:41 Jeff is like ‘This guy needs to get off my bench. Who asked him all that?’”
“Apparently Jeff is happy Miguna fell out with Raila. Jeff wants to exploit it for the benefit of PNU.”
It is evident from these comments and, indeed, from the entire conversation, that Koinange had a noticeable agenda, and that this agenda was certainly not the objective interview of his subject. He tried in every way to insinuate that the Prime Minister could have influenced, or did influence, the ICC process – and he continued trying to insinuate this long after Miguna had made quite clear that this was not the case.
Over the coming year, the conduct of the media is going to play a huge role in influencing how peacefully the next general election will be conducted. There is no room for persistent behaviour by any journalist that is inimical to peace, truth, justice and national unity. Is the Media Council looking? Cohesion and Integration? National Dialogue and Reconciliation? Or do we just let it all hang out like this, with no brakes, and no standards?
Enter Karim Khan, the Queen’s Counsel leading Francis Muthaura’s defence team at The Hague, and last week another willing captive on the bench. Khan spent much of the programme rehearsing arguments that the court had obviously already rejected when it confirmed the charges against the suspects. But it was not long before the two gentlemen got on to the Prime Minister’s alleged role.
Koinange introduces the topic with: “Maybe this case was never about the four but maybe it was the two guys at the top. Maybe that’s what they wanted.” Khan responds with: “Who’s they? That’s the question.” And he goes on to answer that question: “I am not excluding the fact that the professionals at the ICC may have plunged into a certain group within the Kenyan information stream and swallowed everything, as I said in court, lock, stock and barrel.”
To back up this specious suggestion, he moves to the interview with Miguna: “I was very interested to hear that HE SAID HE HAS BEEN A MAIN INFORMATION PROVIDER TO THE PROSECUTOR [my emphasis] and I was taken aback because, firstly, I received no information from the prosecutor in relation to any information given BY THE PRIME MINISTER [my emphasis], particularly when we’ve asserted that maybe there’s some kind of political manipulation of the Kenyan system through the aegis of an international court. We received nothing from the prosecutor to show HIS CONTACT [my emphasis] with the special assistant of the prime minister, who the world knows is the next presidential contender.”
He continues: “Secondly, what portfolio did that special assistant have WHO’S BEING PAID FOR BY THE STATE TO PROVIDE THAT INFORMATION TO THE ICC [my emphasis]. One would expect it to come through normal organs of the state that are entrusted with such matters …. No, this comes from a faction of the Kenyan political establishment, a faction of the coalition, IT’S COME FROM THE PRIME MINISTER, WHO’S A PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE GIVING THE INFORMATION THAT INVOLVES ANOTHER PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE [my emphasis].”
Khan’s insidious and inaccurate remarks are shocking coming from a barrister involved in the ICC case. He says he listened to Miguna on the programme. Obviously he did not listen very carefully. He describes Miguna as “a main information provider to the prosecutor”, he describes such information as “given by the Prime Minister” and he refers to having received no information from the prosecutor about the latter’s “contact” with Miguna.
What Miguna actually said was that he was never in contact with the prosecutor and he only gave ICC officials his personal opinions – not those of the Prime Minister. Thousands of people similarly gave opinions to ICC officials. Like most of them, Miguna’s opinions were not considered of evidential value. That is why Miguna was not called as a witness. Miguna specifically stated that he had no contact with ICC prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo. Khan speaks of Miguna’s being “paid for by the state to provide information” to the ICC. This is a blatant lie. Miguna specifically stated that he offered ICC officials his own personal “opinions”, his “observations” and his “impression” – and his newspaper articles.
Khan goes completely overboard in stating – despite Miguna’s clear and unequivocal statements that these were his personal opinions – that the ‘evidence’ Miguna offered was in fact coming “from a faction of the Kenyan political establishment, a faction of the coalition, it’s come from the prime minister.”
If these remarks by Khan are indicative of his level of understanding and interpretation of Miguna’s answers on the programme, I would personally want any interpretation by Khan of any evidence whatsoever to be very seriously examined. Not only that. Khan is a British barrister (QCs make up about 10 per cent of the list of barristers in the UK). He is therefore presumably subject to the British Bar Council.
The British Bar Standards Board’s ‘Code of conduct of work by practising barristers’ states at Paragraph 709.1, Media Comment, that: “A barrister must not in relation to any anticipated or current proceedings or mediation in which he is briefed or expects to appear or has appeared as an advocate express a personal opinion to the press or other media or in any other public statement upon the facts or issues arising in the proceedings.”
Khan’s conversation on the bench with Koinange is peppered with his personal opinions, liberally cast about with no apparent concern for this professional obligation. He prefaces many of his comments with “I think”, “I thought”, “In all candour, I was …”, “Our objective analysis is …”, “My own objective analysis is …” and so on.
Is the British Bar Standards Board listening? Is the ICC listening? Or does Khan think that, because it’s Kenya, anything goes? Does he think that, because it’s Kenya, you can get away with murder? As Khan might put it, one hopes not. What one does hope is that there is going to be someone, somewhere, who is going to crack down on this kind of sleazy incitement presented as journalism – before it’s too late.
The writer is a freelance journalist. The arguments are entirely the writer’s own and should not be taken as representing those of anyone else in any way whatsoever.