We have seen the police, where are the journalists?

Friday April 26 2019



Odoobo C. Bichachi

Odoobo C. Bichachi  

By Odoobo C. Bichachi

The disappearance of IHK doctor, Catherine Agaba, a fortnight ago and the discovery of her body in a septic tank at her residence, has once again left many questions than answers among the public increasingly distressed by incessant kidnaps and murders in the country.
Following the recovery of Dr Agaba’s remains and the arrest of the alleged culprit, two reputable persons have asked questions that are no doubt running in many other people’s minds and should be of interest to journalists.

First was veteran journalist Joachim Buwembo through a Facebook post. He asked: “Do you buy the confession of a guard who is impatient to be convicted? Says he killed the doctor to save his job yet she had already reported him! Has landlord corroborated the claim that the deceased reported the guard to him? If he wanted to keep the job, why rob and flee after disposing of her body?”

The other was Fr Anthony Kibira, who presided over the requiem Mass for Dr Agaba at Our Lady of Africa Church, Mbuya. He said: “Don’t be satisfied with quick answers. In newspapers, we have given the reason why Dr Agaba was killed that is too cheap.”
Whenever there is a killing, the public trusts that two groups of people - the police and the media - will normally be interested and will follow up.

The former to bring the culprit(s) to book and the latter to tell the public what actually happened. This is best captured in the quote below from the Investigative Journalism Manual, available online:
“While investigative journalists and detectives are similar in many ways, they also conduct work that differs. Sometimes the purpose of journalistic investigations is not to prove guilt but simply to bear witness. Detectives stop when they can prove who committed the crime.

Investigative reporting goes further than simply finding an answer. It gathers the right facts and gets the facts right. It reveals the meaning of the story, and shows a pattern in events, actions or evidence. Thereby, investigative stories explain the context and subtleties of an issue, rather than simply pointing a finger at the accused.”
So far, the police have done their work; finding the body and the self-confessed culprit who has been charged. They will likely go home to sleep, waiting for the next case.

As for the journalists, they have so far done a good job reporting stories about the disappearance of the doctor, recovery of the body and burial but it is not time to go home to sleep yet. So far, there is little or no investigation of this case in the media, which is why Fr Kibira and Mr Buwembo are asking these questions.
Columbia School of Journalism’s Sheila Coronel’s words on what is investigative journalism should, perhaps, help us to rate ourselves so far with regard to how media has handled this story.

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“If reporters attend a press conference and then write about it, they cannot be said to be doing investigative reporting. If they interview those wounded in a police operation and then report what they have been told, that is not investigative journalism either.
“Investigative reporting does not just report the information that has been given out by others – whether it is government [police], political parties, companies or advocacy groups. It is reporting that relies on the journalist’s own enterprise and initiative. Investigative reporting means journalists go beyond what they have seen and what has been said [by police] to unearth more facts and to provide something new and previously unknown.”

In the coming days (and weeks), hopefully, the public will read about who Ronald Obangakene is beyond the simple description of him as a guard at the apartments where Dr Agaba lived.
Whom did he associate with (male and female) on the neighbourhood and what do they know about him – personality, likes and dislikes? Who else lives in the apartments and what do they say about this guard? How long had he been working there? Is it true that he always disappeared from work?

How often did he interface with the tenants (including Dr Agaba)? What does the landlord know about him? How was he recruited? And so forth!
Then the readers/viewers will begin to understand what may have happened, not just see the victim and alleged culprit.

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