Kenya’s leading newspaper, Daily Nation has suspended one of its top editors for authoring an editorial on 2nd January 2016 critical of President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government.
Denis Galava, according to Business Today, who is the newspaper’s managing editor in charge of special projects, was sent home yesterday.
Nation Media Group editor in chief, Tom Mshindi, said in a circular to editorial staff that Mr Galava has been asked to “take some time off to allow us time to review the circumstances of the writing and filing of the editorial for Saturday Nation, January 2, 2016.”
Galava was in August 201 moved from the Saturday Nation where he was managing editor to his current position.
The full-length, 580-word, editorial criticised the Uhuru Kenyatta’s administration and touched on the issues of unemployment, economic stagnation, corruption and poor leadership.
“Mr President, unemployment, corruption, bureaucratic incompetence and economic paralysis are the bane of your regime,” it read in part.
“….Mr President, there comes a time when the rhetoric must stop and some work gets done…For close to three years, you have been declaring your tigritude on rooftops, it is now time to pounce. Not least because your legacy hinges on it, but it is the only decent thing to do.”
It is understood that the piece did not go down well with State House, which used its influence on the board to have action taken against the author.
When Aga Khan, Nation Media Group’s principal shareholder, visited the country last year, he was accorded a state reception by the Uhuru administration, a manifestation of the closer ties that he has with the current government.
Nation Media to lay off staff
Meanwhile, Nation Media Group is set to lay off a number of editorial staff attached to the newspaper division.
The retrenchment – which targets both casual and permanent journalists on the Nation, Business Daily, The East African and Taifa Leo newspapers – is aimed at cutting costs as circulation and advertising revenues drop.
The company reported a Ksh130M drop in its half-year profit, which it attributed to the messy digital broadcasting migration that saw TV stations go off air for nearly three weeks.
There’s notable tension in the third-floor newsroom where most of its newspapers are run as word trickles around about the restructuring which has become an annual ritual at Nation centre.
Those targeted were earmarked through a secret performance-based review that was launched in October last year, three months after Joe Muganda took over as CEO.
Section heads were given the brief to track performance of the journalists under them (reporters and sub editors) without forewarning them.
This is a break from Nation’s talent review which it has used over the years to push out non-performing employees and reward the star performers with generous pay increases or promotions.
Already about 30 regional correspondents have been sent home after the company declined to renew their contracts.
All the regions including Nyeri, Nakuru, Eldoret, Mombasa and Kisumu were affected.
Those who survived are grappling with lower pay, after their retainers were slashed by between Ksh2,000 and Ksh5,000, according to people familiar with the matter.
Inhouse correspondents who were earning Ksh25,000 retainer now take home Ksh20,000 while those at the lowest cadre of Ksh5,000 had their slashed to Ksh3,000.
Kenya’s leading media house is following in the footsteps of its rivals Standard Group and Mediamax, which have recently executed massive layoffs due to shrinking revenues.
Last year, when the Nation Media Group fired majority of its radio staff on Nation FM and QFM as well as trimmed journalists and presenters at NTV and Qtv, it was a matter of time before it turned the axe on the newspaper division, its cashcow.
This comes a fortnight after a mini-reshuffle that repositioned some of its editorial staff in preparation for the lay-off.
Under the changes Chief sub editor Kariuki Waihenya was appointed the re-write editor while Bernard Mwinzi was promoted to assignments editor from DN2.
Carole Njung’e, who was editor of the Living magazine which was killed late last year, was made features editor to take over from Mwinzi.
Paul Ogemba’s promotion to beat leader left the fate of former beat leader Mazera Ndurya hanging in the balance.
Pamela Wanambisi shift to sports depleted an already thin subs desk that has lost five subs in the last one year, leaving only six subs instead of the ideal 11 or 12.