THE BIG DEBATE BURSTS BACK - WITH REDI TLHABI

Friday, July 24, 2015

CNN criticised for describing Kenya as a 'hotbed of terror'; former CNN anchor Zain Verjee says CNN International more 'nuanced' over Africa.

CNN is being criticised for describing Kenya as "a hotbed of terror" with a former CNN International (DStv 401) anchor saying her "eyes rolled to the back of my head" when she saw it.

Ahead of the American president Barack Obama's visit to Kenya today, CNN described the African country on Twitter and in a story as "a hotbed of terror".

The Kenyan government demanded an apology following a Twitter uproar, and CNN later added a note to the story, saying that "the headline and lead of this article has been recast to indicate the terror threat is a regional one".

Zain Verjee, a former CNN anchor and correspondent who is from Kenya and who left CNN International last year, says "Kenyans are seriously pissed off" by CNN's "hotbed of terror" remark, and that "Kenyans have given CNN a hard slap on social media".

Zain Verjee writes that the "hotbed of terror" description would probably not have happened on CNN International, since CNN's international version of the 24-hour TV news channel "is more nuanced".

"It's like two separate worlds really. CNN USA is driven much more by short-term gain, higher drama with a daily pressure of ratings and the need to win the minute."

"CNN international is more nuanced, not driven by the business of daily ratings. There is a much more sophisticated internal approach to Africa programming and reporting."

"The entire CNN network should not be slammed for a 'font' that popped up on one package: "hotbed". That font was generated by a single writer, or producer, who didn't know better, or should have known better."

"I've worked at CNN most of my life. There are anchors, producers, writers, reporters and managers that are excellent journalists, that I respect greatly, who have visited Kenya, like Kenya and get the nuances, and gave me personally, a lot of freedom to tell great Kenya stories over 14 years."