A young Kenyan journalist has shared wholeheartedly the harrowing experience he had to endure to lose his noble job at American international outlet CNN after the employer dug into his past on social media app Twitter.
Idris Muktar started working as a producer at CNN on stories from around the globe in May after graduating from the University of California, Berkeley, where he was pursuing a Master’s in Journalism and Documentary.
Idris, who was born and raised in Korogocho slums in Nairobi, was at the top of his career after moving to the US as a 19-year-old graduate on scholarship at the United States International University—Africa.
That was before he joined Deutsche Welle (DW) as a junior correspondent for East Africa, and before he secured a scholarship at the University of California, Berkeley, to pursue a Journalism and Documentary Master’s program.
Now a Mastercard and Human Rights Center fellow and a recipient of the Foreign Correspondent Award, Muktar’s trouble brewed when he was involved in a story about the Israeli elections.
A pro-Israeli media watchdog, Honest Reporting, decided to investigate him.
“They dug deep into my tweets from when I was still a teen in the slums in July 2014 and found two that were, in my opinion, wholly abhorrent and unacceptable,” Muktar said.
Honest Reporting identified one tweet in which Mukrat appeared to support Adolf Hitler and Germany’s Bayern Munich.
“I have shifted to team Germany after finding out that Messi supports Israel. #teamHitler,” reads the tweet sent on July 13, 2014.
“They were deforesting [sic] their land, modern-day freedpm [sic] fighters. Yes they are entitled to their armed struggle,” another one read.
Honest Reporting would then contact CNN to demand that he be fired.
“I don’t blame my former employer, to be honest. As the world’s leading news network, they cannot have someone in their employment tweeting vile bigotry,” he said.
“A decade later, I was reduced to a tweet and labeled an anti-semite and supporter of the terrorist organization, Hamas; terms I only mentioned in my pieces or while producing a television package for the international broadcaster.”
“Like many Africans, I was not exposed to historical facts such as the Holocaust. Growing up in a post-colonial Kenya, where my grandparents and their families went through horrible crimes from the colonialism masters, and where marginalisation and incessant genocidal-style massacres were still rife, we were so busy entangled in our struggles and freedom.
Still, I would have never condoned such historical facts as what happened to the Jews. Grappling with the rise of social media, we tweeted in ignorance, yet had I been appropriately exposed, I would have never tweeted such things,” he says.
In the piece, Ibrahim takes issue with modern-day’s Cancel Culture, which he terms as “crowd attempts to end an individual’s career for violating moral norms considered popular in some circles or societies.”
“Many journalists like me today have been cancelled because of an old tweet or something they said before. Aren’t we all human beings subject to evolving and changing opinions? Isn’t Cancel Culture an attempt to shut all of us, curtailing the progress made on free speech?” he continued.
The scribe shared a tweet saying he regrets writing the tweets out of ignorance.
“I was young, new to social media, and blurted out inconsiderately. I am not a hateful person and I have learnt and evolved a lot since that time,” part of the tweet read.
Sam Oduor is the editor-in-chief at the Western Kenya Times who leverages the power of the Internet in telling stories that shape opinions.