• George Githii is one of Kenya’s most courageous and prolific journalists who played a critical role in shaping the journalism profession in independent Kenya. 

    In the early years of independence, very few people – journalists or no journalists – were willing to challenge the government’s position on anything.

    However, Githii, while working as Nation’s Editor-in-Chief, was always in the limelight, because of the articles he did, and his bold covering of state ills. 

    He was summoned frequently by the President and discussed in Parliament, with some legislators even calling for his detention. 

    The Nation Media Group Headquarters in Nairobi.
    The Nation Media Group Headquarters in Nairobi.
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    Before his journalism career, Githii briefly worked at State House as Mzee Kenyatta’s first personal assistant but left the post after he was accused of crossing professional boundaries. The role, and the fact that his father was close friends with the founding head of state, gave him numerous sources in the corridors of power. 

    In 1967, he was caught writing an obituary of then-President Mzee Jomo Kenyatta, who was still alive albeit recovering from a heart attack.

    Kenyatta had fallen ill, and for quite some time, he was hidden from the public to be given ample time to recover. 

    As the chief editor at Nation, Githii preempted mzee’s death and prepared an obituary on “the passing away of the Great Kenyatta.” 

    The journalist’s friend and then-Attorney General Charles Njonjo came across the article and that is how the information found its way to the President. 

    By the orders of Agha Khan, Githii lost his job as a senior editor at Nation although he returned a few years later. 

    “George Githii may be one of the most disloyal Kenyan personalities we have in responsible positions today,” then Kamukunji MP Maina Wanjigi told Parliament in 1973. 

    In his response, Githii explained that he was a professional holding the government to account and that any other position would amount to making publications seem like slaves to the government.

    “For governments that fear newspapers, there is one consolation. We have known many instances where governments have taken over newspapers, but we have not known a single incident in which a newspaper has taken over a government,” Githii remarked.

    In 1982, the “mad man” as he was fondly nicknamed – was fired by the Standard on the same day he was hired for publishing an article that criticised then-President Daniel arap Moi who had ownership interests in the paper. 

    Before that, he had a confrontation with the Nation’s majority owner Aga Khan after the newspaper made an editorial in support of Israel during its war with Egypt and other Arab nations.

    The Aga Khan, a figurative head of Shia Muslims was supporting the Arab nations but the Nation editor declined to do so – threatening to resign if his editorial discretion was taken away. 

    Githii was practically a man that never allowed anyone to compromise him, not even the very hand that fed him. 

    Mzee Jomo Kenyatta's funeral
    Mzee Jomo Kenyatta’s funeral
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