|Kenyan Blogger Robert Alai Photo: Courtesy|
Compiled by Sheila Kimani (@sheilakimm)
Social media is fast catching up with Kenyans and if Robert Alai’s popularity is anything to go by, the most informative tweeps (people on twitter) are bound to stand out.
Having won the attention of many especially during the #WestgateMall terror attack, Alai has been commended by twitter users, dignitaries, both local and international media for his comprehensively informative tweets on the #Westagate happenings.
Here is what http://www.theepochtimes.com. (an International website article written by Zachary Stieber) had to say about him.
Kenyan blogger Robert Alai has utilized Twitter and Facebook to, over the course of the Westgate mall attack and subsequent hostage situation, deliver live coverage to over 100,000 people.
Alai has earned praise from both fellow Kenyans and people following the situation abroad for his quick updates, a mixture of information from sources and official accounts.
“On behalf of Kenyans in Australia, thanks mate for keeping us updated,” said Daniel Ngari via Twitter to Alai.
“I followed all social media channels and live streams you were both reliable and timely on your info – thank you – good job man!” said Jude Clark, also via Twitter.
The Westgate attack, begun by a group of al-Shabab militants on September 21 in Nairobi at the upscale Westgate mall, has continued into late Monday evening with hostages still being held inside. At least 68 have been killed in the attack; over 175 others have been injured.
Alai said in an email that he was motivated to cover the situation for several reasons, including that the government wasn’t putting out information in a timely manner.
“I realized that the government was trying to contain and manage news flow without offering credible information about the attack,” he said. “I decided to defy police and government warning on anybody reporting what the police had not confirmed.”
At different points in time, he criticized Kenyan broadcasters and other news agencies, and the government.
In one case on Monday, Alai said that the Interior Ministry was “not helping with wrong info.”
“Building is on fire on LIVE TV while you claim it has been put out,” he tweeted.
On September 21, he said that the initial reaction by the office of Inspector General of Kenya’s national police and the Interior Ministry regarding the Westgate attack “shows you what is wrong with our police.”
He also said that Kenyan news agencies weren’t doing well reporting on the situation.
“This self-censoring of Kenyan media will further complicate such attacks. Reality will set in soon,” he tweeted.
On Sunday, he said that while it was close to 20 hours after the initial attack, “no single Kenyan media has a 3-D illustration of #WestgateMall.”
At the same time, some of Alai’s information comes from official sources and local news outlets and reporters.
Following the Situation despite a Risk
Alai, a tech blogger, consultant, and social media strategist, is a controversial figure in Nairobi. He’s been accused of “hate speech” and other similar allegations regarding online postings, and has been sued and arrested in several cases.
“I have been arrested for defying the police and ‘posting annoying messages on Twitter’ before but I decided to take the risk [of live-tweeting the situation],” he told Epoch Times.