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International media learns the hard way not to mess with KOT brigade

By HILARY KIMUYU January 17th, 2019 2 min read

Kenyans On Twitter, or KOT as they are popularly known, are the equivalent of Big Brother on social media and, when they come together, they are a force to reckon with.

It seems like the New York Times has not learnt anything from its international colleagues who have rubbed Kenyans the wrong way.

Kenyans are always ready to go to “twar” (Twitterspeak for war) whenever they are called upon and always respond with the hashtag, #SomeOneTell.

From big media houses like CNN to South African ministers, almost anyone who has dared annoy Kenyans has been forced to apologise.


On Tuesday, KOT hit out at the New York Times for its insensitive reporting/broadcasting after it published disturbing images of victims of the Riverside attack. The media house splashed images of victims in its story, “Shabab Claim Responsibility for Deadly Assault on Nairobi Hotel-Office Complex” as “standard editorial procedure”.

The KOT battalion launched a scathing attack, expressing disgust at the paper’s insensitive journalism. They called for the immediate deportation of the writer of the article, incoming East Africa Bureau Chief Kimiko de Freytas Tamura.

Ms Tamura apologised, arguing that she has no control over the photos the media house attaches to a story, and asked Kenyans to direct their anger at the photo department. But she deleted her apology after NYT issued a statement on its stand of the matter.

“We have heard from some readers upset with our publishing a photo showing victims after a brutal attack in Nairobi. We understand how painful this coverage can be, and we try to be very sensitive in how we handle both words and images in these situations,” read the statement, which only angered Kenyans more.

However, they only changed the position of the graphic pictures.

“We want to be respectful to the victims and to others affected by the attack. But we also believe it is important to give our readers a clear picture of the horror of an attack like this — this includes showing pictures that are not sensationalised but that give a real sense of the situation,” the media house said in a Twitter statement yesterday morning.

KOT also criticised The Daily Mail for publishing graphic pictures of the victims. They wanted the photos posted online pulled down but the Daily Mail declined.

The #SomeoneTell hashtag can be traced to July, 2015, when CNN described Kenya as a “hotbed of terror” ahead of US President Barack Obama’s visit to the country.

“President Barack Obama is not just heading to his father’s homeland, but to a hotbed of terror,” the report said, sparking outrage.


CNN apologised the following month, with the company’s Global Executive Vice-President and Managing Director, Mr Tony Maddox, travelling to Nairobi to personally deliver the apology to President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Meanwhile, President Kenyatta expressed deep disappointment at the story on behalf of the government and the people of Kenya.

He reiterated that the war on terror was a global threat, and not unique to Kenya, and that Kenya’s security forces and its people had made, and continued to make, great sacrifices to keep the country and the region safe.

In November the same year, KOT came out, guns blazing, after another American broadcaster, Fox News, in its coverage of Pope Francis’ visit to Africa, referred to the continent as “war-torn”.