Kenya Suspends Advertising Deal With CNN Over Terrorism Slur

Kenya has suspended a multimillion shilling marketing communication deal with Cable News Network (CNN) in the latest sign of an escalati...

Kenya has suspended a multimillion shilling marketing communication deal with Cable News Network (CNN) in the latest sign of an escalating row with the American news channel over a recent terrorism slur.

The Kenya Tourism Board (KTB), a State agency that markets the country’s attractions, said the move was necessary to avoid backlash from Kenyans angered by the “misrepresentation on the country’s security status”.

“Some narrative adverts were already running on CNN as we planned launch of above-the-line TV campaigns with them but we suspended all of that,” said CEO Muriithi Ndegwa on Thursday.

The CNN caused a storm after it showed a graphic just days to President Barrack Obama’s July visit in which it described Kenya as a “terror hotbed”.

The remark was in reference to spate of terrorist attacks that have rocked Kenya since 2013, climaxing with the killing nearly 150 Garissa University students in April.

Two guests invited on the CNN show to discuss security matters declared that Kenya, where less than 1,000 people have been killed in terror attacks, was more dangerous than Afghanistan and Iraq.

Last year, Afghanistan saw about 8,000 civilians killed in fighting and terror attacks, while sectarian violence in Iraq claimed more than 15,000 lives.

The “terror hotbed” reference touched off a nationalistic fervour with Kenyans taking to social media to mock or rebuke the American television network.

At the top echelons of power, President Uhuru Kenyatta told his American counterpart during the official opening of the Sixth Global Entrepreneurship Summit: “Kenya is a hotbed of vibrant culture, spectacular natural beauty, and infinite possibility. Let the world hear a simple message: the narrative of African despair and indignity is false — indeed, it was never true. Mr President and to all of you gathered here, today let that narrative change... When you go home and as you travel around the world, tell those whom you meet about what you have seen in Kenya.”

Under the deal previously made public by Tourism secretary Phyllis Kandie, Kenya was to engage CNN to run a one-year campaign targeting the US, Europe, Asia and Africa.

Mr Ndegwa said at the launch of the 26th edition of the Maralal International Camel Derby in Nairobi that Tourism ministry and other State agencies were in talks to find alternatives.

Tourism, a key source of foreign exchange, has been on a three-year decline, pulled down by a series of travel advisories that source markets have issued in response to terrorist attacks.

The tourism agency estimates that Ksh5.2 billion is required to revive the sector, but it was not clear how much of that budget had been set aside for the CNN campaign.
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