Kenyan editors on Monday celebrated the life of late veteran journalist, Philip Ochieng, by launching the Philip Ochieng Annual Lecture on journalism.
Speaking during the inaugural lecture to celebrate the professional life of the late Ochieng, Kenya Editors Guild (KEG) President, Mr Churchill Otieno, said the day will be celebrated every second Friday of May from 2022 in honour of the late columnist.
"Kenya Editors Guild will use this platform to promote excellence in media and journalism that Philip Ochieng stood for. I celebrate him for having the courage to be different because in the current world, that is what most people are afraid of. We should all celebrate Philip's knowledge, service and commitment to journalism," he said.
PO, as he was commonly known, died two weeks ago at Migori hospital at the age of 83. He had practiced journalism for over five decades.
Other speakers, majority of them drawn from different media houses in the country, highlighted the veteran editor and long-serving Nation columnist's contribution to media.
Standard Group's former Editorial Director, Joseph Odindo, said Mr Ochieng exemplified that journalism without knowledge is an empty vessel. Secretary General Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ) and a journalist with Nation Media Group, Eric Oduor, said: "From Philip's story, we learn that as a leader, you must display behaviour that is likely to inspire people, like he did."
Short-lived Uganda career
Ugandan author and veteran journalist, Charles Onyango-Obbo, noted that he was of the post independence Africa radical political and intellectual tradition.
"He was the most short-lived editor in Uganda's history, losing his job at the Sunday Times in three weeks after he was hired from Nairobi to run the paper in 1981. It also bought him a trip to the cooler. He just couldn't help wielding his sharp pen," he said in an audio tribute.
Charles Onyango-Obbo's tribute to Philip Ochieng. #CelebratingPO pic.twitter.com/S3WomUguJK
- Kenya Editors' Guild (@KenyaEditors) May 10, 2021
Mr Ochieng rose from a cub reporter to scale the heights of Kenya's media industry, becoming a managing editor (Nation Media Group) and editor-in-chief (Kenya Times) at different points of his career. He also worked in both Uganda and Tanzania.
Kenyan writer and academic, Ngugi wa Thiong'o, said that he was very shocked and sad to hear of the passing on of Phillip Ochieng.
"He and I were classmates at Alliance High School 1955-1958," the celebrated author said.
KBC Managing Director Naim Bilal said: "He was a man who influenced journalism and politics in a very significant way."
Joe Ageyo, Editorial Director at Royal Media Services, said Mr Ochieng was an enigmatic and mystical figure that most young journalists heard of when they came to newsrooms.
"Philip was many things, he was intellectual and journalistic," said Mr Ageyo.
Ochieng Rapuro, Editor in Chief at Standard Media Group, praised the late scribe's mastery of the language.
"If Kenya had its version of Pulitzer Awards, Ochieng would have bagged many - for his incisiveness, sheer bravery, high-mindedness, mastery of the English language and fidelity to all things journalism."
"My experience and readings through the years on Philip's personal life, led me to the conclusion that we had a colossus of a man in our midst as members of the Fourth Estate. Ochieng was arguably one of the most well-read human beings within the boundaries of Kenya," Mr Rapuro added.
He said that from his pen came thoughtful, deep, and purposeful works not only served in the finesse of the English language, anchored in history and literature, but also spiced with ideology and conviction.
PesaCheck Editor, Ms Rose Lukalo, said journalists must strive for perfection and have a sense of duty in newsrooms again.
"Just like Philip did. He challenged us to be more, more than what we could be."
Years after leaving the newsroom, former President Mwai Kibaki conferred him with the Order of the Burning Spear (OBS) for his objectivity in his Sunday Nation column.
Mr Ochieng's daughter, Lucy Ochieng, celebrated him, saying: "Our dad spoilt us with so much love to a fault. We never thought that daddy could go even at his age."
The family confirmed that the veteran journalist succumbed to pneumonia on April 27 after being rushed to hospital.
In a bid to give Ochieng a befitting sendoff on April 14, the celebrated journalist's family and friends have launched a Paybill account as they seek to raise funds.
Those in a position to help can send their contributions to Paybill number 8040695 with the account name being Philip.