DELHI India --
Kenya Indian journalists founded newspapers and magazines to
demand human rights and freedom under colonial rule in the
first half of the last century; and during the latter half
showed professionalism and ingenuity to reach top positions.
Despite facing threats, prison, exile and deportation, they
contributed to developing Kenya’s media in no small measure,
writes Swami Anand Kul Bhushan.
merchant, Alibhai Mulla Jeevanjee, set up a newspaper,
The African Standard, in Mombasa in 1901 to counter
Anti-Asian racism by the existing British owned newspapers,
East Africa and Uganda Mail.
Within three years, the British owned paper went
A year later, Jeevanjee sold it to two Englishmen who
renamed it as East African Standard which is still in
Later on, other South Asians founded newspapers in
Nairobi to fight for equal rights, self-government and
Colonial Times and Daily Chronicle were the
Girdhari Lal Vidyarthi, editor of the Colonial Times,
was the first journalist to be jailed for sedition in Kenya.
Two others followed suit.
The colonial government charged the editor or journalist
and fined the publisher or printer with sedition to
intimidate and close down the offending paper.
The journalists suffered rigorous imprisonment, exile and
deportation and a well-known freedom fighter and editor Pio
Gama Pinto was assassinated.
But they persisted in their fight for equality and human
During the first half of the last century, Kenya’s South
Asian journalists suffered under the British colonial rule
but contributed to the independence struggle by publishing
newspapers and magazines.
After independence in 1963, the Indian owned newspapers
and magazines went out of print.
With the launch of a major newspapers group, The
Nation in 1960, the South Asian journalists made their
mark in news reporting and newspaper production.
Mostly starting as trainees, they rose to become editors
in almost all departments; and the most outstanding of them,
Joe Rodrigues, became the editor in chief.
During this time, another Sunday paper, Sunday Post,
was also bought by South Asians.
More than 20 South Asian journalists worked for The
Nation to make a major contribution enabling The Nation
to overtake its rival, East African Standard, in
circulation by 1969, in nine years.
The South Asians outclassed the long established rival in
hard news, sports news, business news, and cultural news
with action photos.
By 1975, most of them left Kenya and flourished in their
new locations to enjoy their golden years.
All this is presented in a magnificent new coffee table
book, ‘THE IN-BETWEEN WORLD OF KENYA’S MEDIA: South
Asian Journalism, 1900 - 1992’ by Zarina Patel (Zand
Graphics) released on 19 April 2016 in Nairobi.
The pre-independence era is mostly presented from
archives while the stories of the freedom era journalists
are mostly told by themselves or their relatives.
Interestingly, the author Zarina Patel is the
granddaughter of A. M. Jeevanjee, the founder of the first
The author of a number of biographies of South Asians and
a human rights activist, Zarina Patel took five years to
collect personal stories of nine print journalists in the
Kenya’s colonial era; and another 28 print journalists; 18
photographers; ten radio journalists in the independence
"There is a bullet with your husband’s name on it; get
him out of Kenya as soon as possible," the wife of a Kenya
Indian editor, Cyprian Fernandes, was warned at work.
At the peak of his career as Foreign Editor of the
Nation, he left Kenya within a month.
A socialist journalist who had gone to jail fighting for
Kenya’s freedom, Pio Gama Pinto, was assassinated in broad
daylight as was leaving for office.
Another, Pranlal Sheth, was deported while two, Karim
Hudani and Chander Mehra, exiled themselves.
Most shocking of all, Joe Rodrigues, editor in chief of
the Nation newspaper group, was summarily sacked
after 21 years of sterling service.
Other Kenya South Asian journalists were regularly picked
up for questioning by ‘the special branch’ of the police.
Over 45 years after G. L Vidyarthi was imprisoned, his
son, Anil, became the last Kenyan journalist to be charged
with sedition to date.
In 1998, Anil was acquitted after the sedition law was
repealed from the Constitution.
Among the print journalists in free Kenya, Joe Rodrigues
stands out as he joined The Nation as a Sub Editor
and rose to become the editor in chief purely on his
professional capability and hard work.
At the global level, he was elected the president of the
International Press Institute.
Another sub editor, Alfred Araujo became editor of the
Sunday Nation, Cyprian Fernandes rose to the post of
foreign editor, Kul Bhushan was appointed as the first
business editor, Rashid Mughal became features editor after
joining as a proof reader, Norman da Costa as sports editor,
while Sultan Jessa and Sham Lal Puri made sterling
This list is almost endless.
Press photographers and radio journalists have also been
included as they played a major role during this century.
Three South Asian photographers, Mohamed Amin, Priya
Ramrakha and Sir Mohinder Dhillon, made their mark on the
global scene with their photo-coverage of Eastern Africa
during this time.
Priya Ramrakha and Mohamed Amin died in the call of duty;
Sir Mohinder Dhillon decided to walk away from a torture
scene deliberately extended for filming; 21-year old
Mohinder Singh Marjara disappeared in the Congo and no
search was ever mounted for him.
These and many other cameramen have their tales and top
The air waves were dominated by Chaman Lal Chaman, Pritam
Chaggar, Mussa Ayub, Sajjad and Darshi Shamshi, and others.
The first Asian women print and radio journalists, Gaytri
Sagar and Tochi Chaggar respectively, are included with due
Why does the book stop at 1992?
Because then the air waves were liberalized and most of
the earlier journalists had emigrated.
Journalists are normally writing or telling other
people’s stories, here they are writing their own.
In cases where the journalist was no more, relatives or
colleagues stepped in.
Leafing through the book, one still prominent
Kenyan African journalist has commented: