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Raila gives media a barb

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 20 – Prime Minister Raila Odinga on Tuesday called on the media to participate in constructive national debates and dialogue.

He further appealed to them to raise their reportage standards by seeking to authenticate their facts through consultations, investigations and clarifications.

“Our debate nationally is so low we must raise the standard of reporting in the country. Its only when you go out there you realise that we focus on trivial and so cheap things that even when I don’t say something, it is a story,” quipped the Premier.

Mr Odinga observed that many important stories had been missed at the expense of trivialities, which have created lots of tension and damage to the country.

“Sometimes when I come from outside this country when you’ve been engaged in very serious development issues and you arrive at the airport and you’re excited to tell people the good news, some of our reporters are not interested. They want to know who is involved in which scandal, who is fighting with Muthaura (the Head of Civil Service),” he said.

The Premier said the media should stop over-sensationalising issues.

“Investigations into the saga were ordered by the government long before it was highlighted by the media. I have the facts but I cannot go to the roof and start saying so and so has done this.”

The Premier said that the Grand Coalition government was keen on fighting corruption and would not tolerate any official who abets it.

“I want you know that no one is tolerating corruption inside this government, as a policy!”
He stressed that the government would continue to uphold the freedom of the press, as the industry played a very central place in the realisation of the socio-economic development of the nation.

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Mr Odinga made the remarks during a breakfast meeting with media editors to brief them on the forthcoming national conference on One Kenya; One Dream – The Kenya We Want.

The Prime Minister said the media had over-concentrated their efforts in covering the maize, oil and other alleged scandals in the recent past and blew them out of proportions, without seeking facts which were readily available in his and other government offices.

“You talk about the maize scandal; all you need to do is come to my office and find out what we have done that’s why am talking about sensationalism,” he mentioned.

“When you say that maize has been exported to Southern Sudan, why don’t you go to the border or even to the Sudan itself and see how many lorries have crossed into the Sudan. How much maize has gone to the Sudan? Why don’t you give that evidence? The facts may be very different but the damage has already been done.”

The conference will be attended by over 2,000 participants on February 2-4.

The Premier said that the main agenda would be to discuss policy oriented solutions that Kenyans must adopt in order to avoid conflicts in future.

Some of the key speakers will include former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan, businessman Mo Ibrahim as well as former Heads of States and Government, Ministers, CEOs and entrepreneurs.
Mr Odinga added that the recommendations reached at the conference would also offer a wider forum for debate on the root causes of the post-election violence and proposals for the best solutions to address the problems.

The PM said the conference would strengthen ongoing efforts in national reconciliation and inter-group harmony, which was the central goal of the grand coalition government, and invited the media to play a central role in the realisation of the conference objectives.

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