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Top Kenyan official gives the finger to coronavirus ‘idiots’? No, photo manipulated

Karanja Kibicho, Kenya’s interior ministry principal secretary, shows the middle finger in what seems to be a screenshot of a Citizen TV article circulating on Facebook in late April 2020.

“Kibicho says 402 ‘idiots’ arrested on Sunday for violating curfew,” the headline reads. One Facebook user adds: “Kibicho using his finger to emphasise his point.”

Lifting the middle finger is an insulting and offensive gesture in many cultures including in Kenya.

The screenshot shows Kibicho behind a stack of microphones, indicating that he made the gesture at a news conference.

Did the top Kenyan official really flip the bird in public?

Statement on radio, not TV

Here is the original Citizen TV article, from 27 April. In its photo, Kibicho is raising his index finger.

The article reports that 402 people were arrested for violating the government’s stringent measures to slow the spread of Covid-19. Kibicho did reportedly call these people “idiots”. 

“We have 402 idiots we arrested yesterday trying to challenge and tell the government ‘stop saving my life’ because that is the message they are communicating,” the article quotes him as saying.

But Kibicho didn’t say this on TV. The quote comes from an interview on the radio station Inooro FM, which broadcasts in the Kikuyu language. 

Photo from 2019

In its article, Citizen TV used an old file photo of the official. A reverse image search reveals that the photo was published in the Star newspaper on 1 February 2019. It shows Kibicho speaking at a press conference on Huduma Number, Kenya’s national digital identity system.

The screenshot on Facebook has been manipulated. The official raised his index finger, not his middle finger. – Grace Gichuhi


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