The New York Times has finally appointed Abdi Latif Dahir as its East Africa correspondent closing a tumultuous period in the search for head of the Nairobi office. Mr Dahir has much experience covering the region and has worked for some of the leading media houses including Daily Nation, Africa Review, The East African, Al Jazeera, and most recently Quartz Africa. He is a graduate of the acclaimed Columbia School of Journalism.
While Mr Dahir will be focusing on his role as a journalist, he will certainly be the centre of focus as he tries to clean the muddle created by his own employer and predecessors. The Times early this year joined a growing list of western media houses which have been criticized for covering Africa in a negative light.
The dusitD2 Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura saga
The storm started in January 2019 when Al Shabaab terrorists attacked the dusitD2 hotel and office complex in the Riverside neighbourhood of Nairobi just a stone throw from the central business district. The designated incoming correspondent who had been announced just four months earlier, Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura was charged with covering the event. Her story in the Times was accompanied by gory images of victims of the attack drawing consistent criticism from Kenyans and Africans.
The New York Times defended the use of the images saying they served to capture the gruesomeness of the situation for the world to understand, but Kenyans wondered why the same newspaper had never shown images of dead Americans in the frequent school shootings in the USA. Kimiko was haunted out of the country following the online backlash and the decision by the Media Council of Kenya to reevaluate her credentials.
The council had also written a protest letter to the NYT about the schewed coverage demanding retraction of the story and an apology, which never happened. She is back in London where she had been working covering Brexit and terrorism.
A twisted ad for replacement of the NYT bureau chief
As if it had not shot itself enough in the belly, the NYT advertised for the vacant bureau chief position in July. The wording of the advert created a furore as it brought to the fore the guiding principle in the stories the Times sought in Africa – “Unexpected stories of hope”.
The NYT International editor Michael Slackman owned up to approving the job ad saying he deserved the slack. He went on to ask for a ‘favour’ where tweeps would frame the ad using the most appropriate words.