January 22nd 2018

Media / Arts & Culture

Jacob Juma, Cheryl Kitonga and cyber bullying

Nairobi City thrives on trends- Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Snap Chat control our lives.

By Cynthia Iranducirandu@kenyafreepress.comTuesday, 14 Jun 2016 08:14 EAT

Nairobi City thrives on trends- Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and Snap Chat control our lives. As Nairobi’s cosmopolitan culture continues to be more sophiticated, internet savvy girls become targets. In a man- eat- man society, it is better to keep one’s private life private. It is unlikely however since the information age has made the world a global village and social media the village elder. Keeping up with the Kardashians gave birth to Vera Sidika, Huddah Monroe and the K24 reality show, Nairobi Diaries, which shows us the daily adventures and misadventures of socialites. Just like man and money go hand in hand, there can be no socialites without sponsors.

Kenya was stunned a couple of weeks ago when Mohammed Ali, Kenya’s renowned investigative journalist, delved into the murky waters of Jacob Juma’s love life. Juma must have been aware of the digital migration that magically turns the most boring people into celebs. His whirlwind romances were bred on social media, specifically Facebook. Juma met Cheryl Kitonga on social media. Cheryl, a former University of Nairobi marketing student, is allegedly the last person to see Juma alive. Their movements were captured by digital paparazzi-CCTV cameras around the city, cruising in Juma’s Mercedes Benz.

Ali’s Jicho Pevu investigation is a special feature that he does for a living. Ali was doing his job by releasing the expose on Jacob Juma’s murder. What happened later is the problem. Cyber bullying is using electronic media to bully, shame, attack and defame a victim. When Kenyans watched the expose on KTN, feedback was posted across all social media pages and groups. Cheryl was exposed to the harsh reality of impromptu fame - with her name tarnished, face splashed across the internet and TV. Everyone got to know where she lives (in South B estate), as Jicho Pevu aired her dirty laundry for the public to see.

Cheryl’s boyfriend was one of the many who watched Jicho Pevu, only to discover that his girlfriend was embroiled in a cheating scandal that involved death. Cheryl deactivated her social media accounts because of all the destructive criticism and harsh comments that were directed at her by strangers on the net who knew her dark secrets.

Cyber bullying is rapidly increasing  in Kenya. Victims are attacked by vicious cyber bullies who usually hide their identities. Cyber bullying causes mental and emotional distress, humiliation, embarrassment and paranoia. Not many girls are able to brush off negative comments as idle talk. Those with thin skins often go into depression and in extreme cases even suicide.

February 9th this year was Safer Internet Day. The theme was Play Your Part for a Better Internet. Facebook is working with partners such as Watoto Watch in Kenya, J Initiative in Ghana and SHIFT in Nigeria to educate and promote internet safety among vulnerable groups of people in these communities. Let’s all play our part for a better internet by thinking twice before sending hateful tweets. 

The writer is a journalism student at the University of Nairobi and intern writer at the Kenya Free Press.

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