Kenyans rile about CNN ‘violence’ comment on social media

NAIROBI, Kenya, March 19 (UPI) -- A report on CNN in early March that many in Kenya deemed sensational has led social media users in the country to rail against the news network for depicting an isolated grenade attack at a bus station in Nairobi as a flare-up of violence across the country.

Kenyans' comments on the Twitter and Facebook led CNN to apologize and remove a video that reported on the blast that killed six and injured a dozen others not as a solitary terrorist attack but as part of a wave of violence.

Hash tags like #SomeoneTellCNN, #CNNApologize and #KOT (short for Kenyans on Twitter), went viral. The tag #SomeoneTellCNN became a trending topic globally. A cross section of Kenyan society, including politicians, bloggers and academics joined the fray of those questioning CNN's news judgment.

“It is extremely irresponsible for CNN to paint Kenya as a nation in chaos while we are victims of terror. #SomeoneTellCNN,” Kenya’s Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, tweeted.

Dan Ndambuki, a well-known Kenyan comedian, even took a stab at the issue on Twitter: “#SomeoneTellCNN that #SomeoneTellCNN will become a movie in Kenya. We are very creative fellows, I tell you!”

A screen grab depicting CNN’s Jonathan Mann reading the news with a banner that read “VIOLENCE IN KENYA” went viral on the blogosphere, leading the channel’s Africa correspondent, David McKenzie, to apologize on behalf of the channel.

“We are having offending video pulled. Again, apologies for the mistake. It was changed on air, but not online. Now it is,” he wrote in a Twitter post.

In a year when presidential elections threaten to revive ethnic violence that led to the death of more than 1,000 people in 2008 and the indictment of four politicians by the International Criminal Court, some used the moment to reflect on what this meant for the country.

“If there was a time that the country needed that kind of patriotism, it is now, with the ICC issue and election dates polarizing the country,” said Brian Mosigisi, who works in public relations in Nairobi.

Audiences were incensed over the "violence" comment because they said it portrayed the bus station attack as part of a wave of violence that had engulfed the whole country, when the capital, Nairobi, was the only place that experienced the attack.

Nairobi has been the scene of grenade attacks since the Kenyan army crossed over to Somalia in October to battle the insurgent group, al-Shabaab. The al-Qaida-linked group threatened reprisals against Kenya if the country didn’t withdraw its troops from Somalia. Grenade attacks occurred in a Nairobi bar and a bus stop in October, barely a week after the Kenyan army invaded Somalia.

However, with the exhilaration over the "violent" comment fading over the last few days, many in the blogosphere came to act contrite over what really transpired.

“I am not longer baying for @McKenzieCNN’s blood. Grenade blasts comprise violence; actions of physical force meant to injure people,” Aggrey Mutambo, a journalist, wrote on Twitter.

Media analysts said the public outcry showcased how much social media has given Kenyans a platform on which to be involved in the affairs of the country.

“This could change the news framing and priming approach in a bid to avoid sensationalizing the Kenyan situation or event at the expense of truth,” said Robi Koki, a journalism lecturer, who has done extensive research on social media.

Twitter has become an important communication tool among young people in Kenya, with recent poll estimates by consultancy agency, Portland Communications, ranking the country as the second most active country in Africa on Twitter, preceded by South Africa and followed by Nigeria, Egypt and Morocco, respectively.

Four people were arrested over the Saturday attacks, though the Somali militant group al-Shabaab, which was accused by the Kenyan government of bearing the responsibility to the attack, denied involvement.