It was Chinese philosopher and politician Confucius who said: “Don’t do unto others what you don’t want others to do unto you.” That saying is known as the Golden Rule and is part of Judeo-Christian ethics. It is mentioned several times in the Bible.
Jesus described the Golden Rule as the second great commandment. The first great commandment is “Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind.” The second is “Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.”
Ethical journalism is founded on the same principle of treating others as you would wish to be treated. It holds journalists accountable for their actions. This principle, and others, forms the core of media ethics. Others include seeking the truth. If a story is not true, it’s not newsworthy. If a story is not true and it is published, it may cause harm.
The Society of Professional Journalists, a leader in journalistic ethics, urges journalists to treat subjects of news as human beings deserving of respect. Journalists, it says, should show compassion for those who may be affected by news coverage.
This brings me to the complaint we published last week on the opening remarks by NTV’s “AM Live” host Debarl Inea in a discussion on “The Chinese in Gikomba” headline story in the Business Daily of June 10. The complainant, Dr Bashir Ahmed, said the remarks were “tasteless and racist”.
Using polemics, Mr Inea said in his opening remarks that there is a “Chinese invasion” and we should be afraid the Chinese may also be hired as nannies in our homes, get involved in selling roasted maize and selling nyama choma.
I left it to readers to judge.
Rosemary Kuria, a lawyer, came up with the most analytical judgment. Mr Inea’s diatribe, she says, is a blatant form of race-baiting and a study in lazy journalism: “There are better ways of addressing an issue such as lack of work permits, instead of whipping up xenophobia and racism.”
It was race-baiting, I agree with Ms Kuria. There is probably no better way of describing Mr Inea’s angry speech. It was incitement. He used racially derisive communication to arouse the prejudice or fears of Kenyans regarding the Chinese.
And it moved Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i to order the deportation of four Chinese trading in Gikomba. “I’ve already directed that those (Chinese) in Gikomba be escorted to the airport tomorrow to ensure they take supper in their homes,” he said.
In ethical journalism, we follow the second great commandment.
Until then, it had not been a matter of hue and cry, or a case for instant deportation, to find a foreigner engaging in a business that is presumed to be the preserve of the locals. For example, under the headline “Why Kiambu women love samosas from ‘muthungu’”, The Nairobian reported 10 months ago that Ronald Cornelius from the Netherlands was selling the snacks at the bus terminus.
“People here are more friendly and relaxed. They love my samosa and olly balls (Dutch doughnuts),” said Mr Cornelius. “I decided to set up this small business here because it’s the county headquarters. It’s near the city and you can source farm produce cheaply here — unlike in Amsterdam, where you can only buy them at the supermarket.”
Other newspaper and social media stories have reported foreigners competing with locals for low-level business. These include a white man, Marko Antero, selling clothes at a stall in Langas, Eldoret; an Italian, Lucia Murotto, who works as a tout on a Nairobi-Kitengela matatu; and a white woman hawking bananas in Kisumu.
Mr Inea overstated his case by using race-baiting language. There is no “invasion” of Gikomba any more than there is of the Xiaobei Lu market in Guangzhou, where thousands of Africans, including Kenyans, travel to or reside in search of business opportunities. Those Africans compete with the Chinese in selling cheap Chinese goods to Africa.
In a globalized world — and in reporting the Chinese in search of business in Kenya — journalists should remember the Golden Rule.