Journalists eulogise Philip Ochieng as a transformative leader

Tuesday, May 11th, 2021 00:00 |
Kenya Editors Guild President Churchill Otieno with Phillip Oching’s relative in Nairobi yesterday. Photo/Courtesy

Veteran journalists and current editors yesterday described late Philip Ochieng as a transformative yet controversial figure in the history of media in Kenya.

During a function held to celebrate the life of the veteran editor and columnist at a city hotel, renowned editors Wangethi Mwangi and Joseph Odindo termed Ochieng as one of the top three journalists, who greatly influenced the media industry.

The other two legends said to have played a major role in the growth of the industry are Hillary Ng’weno and David Githi.

Ochieng hired and trained Mwangi and Odindo, who both rose to be editorial directors at NMG.

They praised him as unrivalled in his mastery of the English language, defender of press freedom and also for his sense of fashion.

“He had the Nilotic sartorial elegance and was one of the best dressers in the media industry,” said Odindo.

Mwangi noted that Ochieng’s great contribution to the media industry was only blemished by his articles when he worked for the then Kanu-owned Kenya Times.

But according to Odindo, it was Ochieng’s stint at the Kenya Times that changed his perception of journalism as a profession.

“The media house was controlled by the powers that be then something that Ochieng did not like. He was a frustrated man who was forced to work against his will,” Odindo said.

Some of the writings that painted Ochieng negatively was a piece where he castigated veteran and second liberation heroes, James Orengo and Paul Muite on their quest for multipartism and another one when he criticised then United States ambassador to Kenya Smith Hemstone.   

Memorial lecture

During yesterday’s event, Kenya Editors Guild President Churchill Otieno launched the Philip Ochieng Memorial Lecture that will be held every May.

“Kenya Editors Guild will use this platform to promote excellence in media and journalism that Philip Ochieng stood for,” said Otieno.

Ochieng died two weeks ago at a Migori hospital at the age of 83. He had practised journalism for over five decades.

Ochieng rose from a cab reporter scaling the heights to be a managing editor and chief editor.

Others who spoke were top editors Mutuma Mathiu (NMG), Kipkoech Tanui (Standard), Naim Bilal (KBC), Joe Ageyo (Royal Media Services), Bernard Momanyi (Capital FM) and Eric Oduor, Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ). Renowned author Prof Ngugi wa Thiong’o, who was Ochieng’s classmate at Alliance High School also eulogised him.

Ochieng will be buried this Friday at his Manyatta home in Awendo, Migori county.

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