By Raylenne Kambua
The Kenya Editors Guild (KEG) on Monday, May 10, 2021, held a memorial meeting at the Sarova Stanley, Nairobi, in honor of the late veteran journalist Philip Ochieng’. Several editors and other renowned media personnel gathered in Nairobi for the celebration, while others joined in virtually.
On the same day, the Guild launched the Philip Ochieng’ memorial lecture. KEG president Churchill Otieno indicated that the day will, from next year, be marked every second Friday of May.
Otieno acknowledged Philip’s knowledge, service and commitment to journalism. ‘’I celebrate Philip Ochieng’ for having the courage to be different, because in the current world, that is what most people are afraid of,’’ he added.
The Nation newspapers columnist was hailed by a majority of the speakers, mostly from the media industry. His contribution in their careers and mentorship was recognized and the value of his impact felt.
“Philip was a fantastic writer and one of the best editors that this country has ever produced. He appreciated good writing and good writers,” said Mutuma Mathiu, the Nation Media Group (NMG) Editorial Director.
Former KEG chairperson and veteran journalist Wangethi Mwangi praised the willingness and support Philip showed him in the early years of his career. He said: “I thought I knew everything about journalism, having been to university, until I met Philip. He taught me to think about my own abilities and accept where I had deficiencies.”
Another veteran journalist and former NMG and the Standard Group Editorial Director, Joseph Odindo, shared his friendship encounter with Philip.
“Philip’s work in the newsroom stands as a reminder of the importance of professional standards and respect for language. For him, it was a religion,” Odindo said.
KBC Managing Director Naim Bilal said: “He was a man who influenced journalism and politics in a very significant way. We honour and celebrate this great man today.”
KEG member and the Standard Group Editor-in-chief Ochieng’ Rapuro, praised Philip’s intellectual capabilities.
“If Kenya had its version of Pulitzer awards, Philip Ochieng’ would have bagged many; for his sheer bravery, high mindedness, mastery of the English language and fidelity to all things journalism,” he said.
“Philip was an enigmatic and mystical figure that most of us heard of when we came to newsrooms. He was intellectual and journalistic. You would not read his columns and feel nothing,” remarked Joe Ageyo, the Royal Media Services (RMS) Editorial Director.
Rose Lukalo, the moderator of the session, stressed the need to strive for perfection and the sense of duty in newsrooms, just like Philip did.
Philip’s daughter Lucy Ochieng’ said: “Our dad spoilt us with so much love. We never thought that daddy could go, even at his age.”
Veteran writer Ngugi Wa Thiong’o, who shared a class with Philip at the Alliance High School, expressed his deep sorrow for his former classmate’s departure.
Selected journalism students paid tribute to the fallen pen hero and recited some of his works at the memorial.
The veteran journalist succumbed to pneumonia at the age of 83, on April 27, 2021. He was laid to rest May 14, 2021.