An amateur video of an infuriated and frustrated sister to a female cancer patient, named Esther, made rounds on social media.
The sister was bitterly complaining over the fact that Esther could not access treatment at Kenya’s largest referral hospital, Kenyatta, for lack of money.
It is then that journalist Joy Kirigia took it upon herself to ‘Save Esther’. First, together with colleagues, she organized a funds drive towards the patient’s medical bills.
Despite the effort bearing fruit, the disease had already advanced and Esther had reached a point of no return.
She struggled painfully as cancer ate into her until when, sadly, only death came and ‘saved’ her from the burdens of the world.
This, was Ms Kirigia’s humane angle to the detailed investigation into the Medical Equipment Scheme (MES) scandal which she published for Africa Uncensored online.
The investigation exposed the President Uhuru Kenyatta-led Jubilee administration to having procured medical equipment at inflated prices and plundered from the public purse.
The equipment ended up lying idle in various county hospitals and could not benefit cancer patients.
Other stories that made it to this top category for print include Beatrice Kangai’s ‘Smuggled from Nairobi to Johannesburg’ and Paul Wafula’s ‘Traders who made billions from Covid supplies’. The two stories had been published in the Daily Nation.
In the radio category, Journalists of the Year are those who told stories about the environment. They include Baraka FM’s Hillary Makhoha for ‘Environmental impact of plastic water bottles in the Indian Ocean’, Sifa FM’s Lina Mwamachi for ‘Athari za mabadiliko ya hewa kwa ukulima wa nyuki’ and Rahma radio’s Ruth Keah for ‘Ufufuaji wa mazingira’.
Waihiga Mwaura of Citizen TV was the winner in the television category for his ‘Mara Heist’ expose. KTN’s Timothy Otieno, famous for his ‘Area Code’ series, was Mr Mwaura’s first runners up for the ‘Access denied’ feature. NTV’s investigative journalist Dennis Okari came third for the earthshattering ‘Covid-19 Millionaires’ story.
Several other journalists were also feted in various categories, namely; Business and Financial, Covid-19, development, environment, governance reporting, health, ICT and Telecommunications, gender, sports, and investigative reporting.
Those who did stories courtesy of the Media Council of Kenya (MCK) grants were also recognized. The event organizer, MCK, also awarded best cameramen, photographers, podcasters, and radio producers.
The annual event was graced by Acting Chief Justice Philomena Mwilu on May 4. She recognized challenges that journalists go through in their jobs and applauded the Fourth Estate for its watchdog role in society.
However, the event did not end without critiques. MCK has since been criticized for side-lining Digital journalists, yet digital journalism is the new backbone of the industry.
Michael Ollinga on Twitter said, “@MediaCouncilK why don’t you have a digital media category in your Annual Journalism Excellence Awards (AJEA)? I find this hypocritical because you always have opinions on what and how digital media should be conducted.”
Irene Majale wrote, “No category on Digital Media yet we keep on receiving emails requesting surveys on digital media this, digital media that. Webinars on the world, news moving digital but no accommodation of such.”
Journalist Faith Sudi vented her anger on Facebook, saying: A good percentage of creative stories were shared via digital media. MCK failing to acknowledged this just depicts the kind of poor preparedness, poor research…(that) we have in the council.” She added, “Let me not quote some of the anti-digital remarks during the Press Freedom Day.”
Apart from digital journalists, vernacular radio station-based journalists were also not recognized. Several have proceeded to express their displeasure on various WhatsApp groups.
The MCK is yet to speak to this simmering disquiet.