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Via Twitter

Kenya's Mysterious #EyewitnessChallenge is a Welcome Distraction

We speak with the meme's originator and ask "has Cyrus Kabiru done the #EyewitnessChallenge yet?"

If you hang out on the goofy fringes of Kenyan social media like we do, you will have been inundated with images from the #EyewitnessChallenge, a meme dedicated to mocking a man who shows up at disaster sites with a unique pair of futuristic sunglasses.


It started when Kenyan television news interviewed a man at the scene of the the October 21, Nakuru plane crash. A few days later, the man popped up on TV again as an eyewitness to the car accident that claimed the life of Nyeri Governor, Wahome Gakuri. But rather than dwell on a somewhat creepy coincidence, Kenyans were drawn more to the man's odd choice of facial accessories.

Here's some video of the mystery man:

What makes a popular post?

OkayAfrica chatted with the meme's originator Nelson Odette, a 29 year old accountant in Kisumu. Going by @jr_odette on Twitter, Odette says he expected the #EyewitnessChallenge to go viral because of its potential to capture the national interest. While he's tried other humorous social media posts before that didn't get shared Odette believes that, "this one did as it offered us some relief from the ongoing politics."

Odette says that the Kenyan electoral dispute and related social upheavals have had an ongoing impact on his life. From a lack of work during the demonstrations to state targeting of people from Odette's Luo community. The stress, in other words, was the perfect setting for a goofball meme. A quick respite from posts about the fight for electoral justice that Odette typically engages in online.

Here's Odette's relatively tame, original contribution to the meme. The "ur-tweet" if you will:

Some of our favorites from the #EyewitnessChallenge:


Has Cyrus Kabiru taken the #EyeWitnessChallenge yet?

In their artful disdain for the mundane, these Kenyan social media artists bring to mind the work of fellow Kenyan, the internationally recognized artist Cyrus Kabiru whose self portraits in elaborate improvised glasses frames adorn many of the world's top art galleries. We can only imagine that Kabiru would have the best addition to the challenge yet.

News Brief

Prominent Zimbabwean Activistย  Sheds Light on Current Crisis

Doug Coltart, a vocal activist and human rights lawyer based in Harare, speaks to Okayafrica about what's currently happening in Zimbabwe.

A few days ago, the Zimbabwean government issued a directive to major cellular network providers Econet and TelOne to disable the internet and all access to social media. The directive was an attempt to prevent any information from spreading outside the country's borders with regards to the nationwide protests which have led to the deaths of at least five people and the injury of at least twenty-five others.

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The front page of The New York Times on January 16, 2019

Kenyans Are Furious at the New York Times for Posting Photos of Terrorist Victims

After the the deadly attack on Tuesday, many are accusing the American newspaper of having a double standard on which dead bodies they allow into the paper

Is the New York Times guilty of a double standard when it comes to publishing images of dead bodies?

Kenyans, and others fed up with the coverage, took to social media in the hundreds to denounce a Times article that included an image of victims of Tuesday's Nairobi terrorist attack, bloodied from bullets, and lying hunched over their laptops, dead.

It has cause enough debate online to where the Times' incoming East Africa Bureau chief Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura felt the need to explain their photo policy, which is to show the dead only if their faces cannot be seen in the image. The photo in question fits the policy as the faces are facing away from the camera. She would later apologize before posting the official policy to her Twitter account. The photo remains up.

The Times' official response, as those tend to do online, has only created more anger. But unlike many unruly Twitter mobs, those responding to the official statement have a rather coherent messageโ€”"you wouldn't do this with photos of the American dead."

Some of the responses to the Times' official statement.

In a response to the controversy from the Poynter Institute, a typically astute observer of journalistic practice in the United States, they run through the typical American journalism school approach to publishing photos that might shock or offend. They write:

Should the Times have run the photo?
There is no easy answer.
The first question any news organization must ask when deciding to publish violent images is: WHY show it?
In other words, what is the news value? Does the public need to see such an image to fully grasp what happened? Does the public need to see such a photo to confirm or disprove the official account of the events?
An argument could be made that a writer's words could accurately describe the scene without being as disturbing as the image. In addition, when it comes to an act of terrorism, might publishing such a photo actually advance the cause of the terrorists, showing the damage they caused, thus fueling dread and panic?
Also this: The photo on the Times website came without warning. As a reader, you didn't know you were going to see a photo of dead people until you actually saw it.
Those are arguments to not run such a photo or, at least, warn readers of its graphic content.

While it's a fine analysis of when to show a violent image, it misses the central issue at play for those aggrieved by the Times' postingโ€”that the American news-gaze values certain lives differently. Black, brown, foreign, poorโ€”American journalism organizations, including the New York Times, cannot escape a base ethnocentrism in their coverage. It's so embedded into how these institutions operate, and the gap in understanding is so wide, that to much of the world, the Times' official response is laughably wrong at first glance.

"We take the same approach wherever in the world something like this happens--balancing the need for sensitivity and respect with our mission of showing the reality of these events"

And while there are examples from the Times that complicate this feeling, like these images of the dead in the terrorist attack in Nice, France, it doesn't discount the wider and correct feeling that the white victims of American mass shootings are treated differently than their African counterparts. And while there are complicated and systematic reasons for this which will always make discussing it difficult, to simply deny that different standards exist, does not increase the Times' credibility with Kenyans or the newspaper's growing online audience which will only become more vocal about how they're portrayed.

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Falz 'Moral Instruction'

The 10 Songs You Need to Hear This Week

The best music of the week featuring Falz, King Monada, Zlatan, Yemi Alade and more.

Every week, we highlight the cream of the crop in music through our Best Music of the Week column.

Here's our round up of the best tracks and music videos that came across our desks, which you can also check out in our Songs You Need to Hear This Week playlists on Spotify and Apple Music.

Follow OkayAfrica on Spotify and Apple Music to get immediate updates every week and read about some of our selections ahead.

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