Why the media should never take sides when reporting on crime

The driver of the white vehicle Daniel Gucoma was sprayed with bullets by unknown assailants in Ruiru along Thika Road on Tuesday, June 22, he died on the spot

By The Weekly Vision

Kenyans were yesterday appalled at the slanted and biased crime reporting by a section of the local print media whose editors seem to take pride in the unfortunate incidents of a growing trend of extra-judicial killings by the police. 

People took issues with some headlines in the media, referring to the recent Thika road gangland-style execution of a city businessman. A headline like ‘Crime Runs in Family of Slain Businessman’ which appeared in the Saturday Nation on June 26 appears too “judgemental” for a newspaper that prides itself on objective reporting.

The paper was “completely insensitive to the family that lost a loved one”, it appears to be saying that “he deserved to die” which is most unfortunate indeed considering that the late was never subjected to a legal process.

Suspects, they added, deserve their day in court, and no one, repeat no one, can pass judgement except through our judicial system that protects the rights of the offender and the offended

People condemned the killing, urging police to ignore “biased” reports and “slanted media profiling” and investigate “murders”. They said the law is clear that no one should be condemned unheard and for “an old media house like Nation failing to observe this most basic tenant of journalism is quite unfortunate.”

Suspects, they added, “deserve their day in court, and no one, repeat no one, can pass judgement except through our judicial system that protects the rights of the offender and the offended.” The growing trend in the media that appears to “celebrate” the death of people killed in mysterious circumstances thus indirectly “abating” cold-blooded murder must be avoided at all costs.

A headline like ‘Slain Kitengela Four Lived Large’ is yet another example of the growing media biased reporting or “profiling” of extra-judicial killings. So, what if they lived large, does that mean they should be brutally murdered? 

As a country, we must accept to respect and follow the rule of law or lapse into the primitive rule of the jungle where “might is right!” It is unacceptable for the media to fail to appreciate that even known criminals have loved ones and a right to justice in the courts of law not “kangaroo courts” or editorial desks of leading media houses.

What perception do such headlines create in the minds of the family of the slain Thika road businessman? “How does crime run in the family? Is it inherited and in the genes? Sociologists will beg to differ and argue that a “multiplicity of environmental factors and only a small genetic predisposition makes criminals what they become but “that’s why we have prisons to punish, reform and promote behavioural changes”

No society in the world is “crime-free” and that errant behaviour will always define human conduct, a “zero-sum approach to fighting crime” is primitive and self-defeating.

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