Sport

Almost naked photo in sports news pages: What happened to decency?

Almost naked photo in sports news pages: What happened to decency?

Members of the Kenya beach volleyball team with their coach, Sammy Mulinge, after qualifying for the final round of the FIVB Continental Cup-cum-Olympic qualifiers in Agadir, Morocco, on June 23.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Three Sundays ago, the Nation published a photo of Gaudencia Makokha in action at the African beach volleyball Olympic Games qualifiers in Morocco. The photo shows the long-legged (she is 6ft 2in) volleyball queen leaping into the air to catch the ball. But what catches the eye, at least for many readers, is her backside protruding from her skimpy bikini.

“It’s totally disgusting to have a near-nude photograph in a national news daily. What happened to decency?” wondered Jeremire Araka, pointing to the photo which appeared on page 44 of the Sunday Nation of June 27.

The professor of communication and deputy vice-chancellor of the Nairobi-based International Leadership University goes on to say: “How did her father or uncles receive the picture? Granted that the photo editor has a right to choose, I believe there are several other angles of the same girl playing that could have conveyed a sense of decorum than baring her anatomy.  Has NMG abandoned any pretence to morality? I intend to bring this matter up with the Communications Authority for guidance.”

By “Communication Authority”, I think Prof Araka meant the Complaints Commission of the Media Council of Kenya, which handles media complaints. And even as he threatened to sue, I told him that indecency in the media is a very controversial subject and I am not always sure what should be allowed or disallowed in the media.

“When I watch rap music not only on KISS TV but also NTV, Citizen, KTN and even KBC these days, I feel tolerance for indecency has increased. Perhaps we have moved on from those days when total strangers would attack women (with societal approval) in the streets because they were “indecently dressed”.

Indecent images

I told Prof Araka I would seek the views of other people — including the sports editor who saw it fit to use the picture — before responding to his complaint.

Even as I hesitated to adjudge Prof Araka’s complaint, the NMG editorial policy strongly guards against obscenity. It says: “Our platforms should not publish anything that is obscene, vulgar or offensive to public good taste.

“A story, photograph or drawing/cartoon/graphic of questionable taste should have significant news value to justify its usage. Generally, what is in good taste is to be determined by the prevailing social norms.”

Elias Makori, the NMG sports managing editor, said although the Nation steers clear of indecent images, in some sports, like beach volleyball and swimming, it is virtually impossible to pick images with limited body exposure. The nature of these sports is that the athletes have official competition wear that has been approved as decent. With Kenya having qualified to play in beach volleyball at the Tokyo Olympics, we shall strive to, of course, cover our stars with decorum.

“Prof Araka is a veteran newsman whom I respect and hold in great revere and respect, but his conservative nature might have been overtaken by the dynamics of modern sport. That notwithstanding, his concerns are noted. But they hardly demand the (Complaints Commission) intervention. This is tantamount to responding to a mosquito bite with a hammer.

“I implore Prof Araka to stay tuned to the Tokyo Olympics coverage. He might better appreciate the beauty of modern sport.”

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Elias Makori is in Japan to report the Olympics, which start next Friday. In his “Olympics Notebook” on Monday, he says the hosts have gone out of their way to make the Kenyan delegation feel comfortable and at home.

“At the team’s New Plaza Hotel in downtown Kurume [City], chefs have pushed themselves to make Kenyan delicacies, including ugali and githeri. And the buffet table’s labelling is also done in Kiswahili.”

And as the Olympics countdown begins, Muhammad Chegeh, of the Dry Port, Naivasha, says: “Let’s go, Elias Makori! Thank you for the daily update on arrivals and training sessions of our champions. Good to hear ugali features on buffet table there. Thank you for the good work.”

The Public Editor is an independent news ombudsman who handles readers’ complaints on editorial matters including accuracy and journalistic standards. Email: [email protected] Call or text 0721989264.