How Kimiko de Freyta covered Paris and Brussels attacks

Incoming NYT’s East Africa bureau chief Kimiko de Freytass (courtesy of NYT website)

One of the trending hashtags on Twitter for the better part of January 16, 2019 was  #deportKimiko. Kenyans were calling for the deportation of
Kimiko de Freytas-Tamura, the incoming East Africa bureau chief for the New York Times (NYT), for her conduct in the coverage of a terror attack on 14 Riverside Drive in Nairobi the previous day.

Many Kenyans felt she was condescending in the way she responded to criticism about a photo NYT had published of dead bodies as a result of the attack.

Here is a brief analysis of Kimiko’s previous coverage of terror attacks.

On September 26, 2018, the New York Times (NYT) announced that it would be replacing Jina Moore as the head of the East Africa bureau with Kimiko de Freytas.

Kimiko had joined NYT in 2013 as a researcher and slowly moved up the ladder to become a writer covering issues such as Brexit. She also covered two terrorist attacks. (Paris and Brussels).

 In a press statement announcing her appointment the International editor, Michael Slackman described her as talented and driven reporter with an arsenal of catchy ledes (fist sentence of a story) and an innate curiosity that propelled her to go deep.

“She loves the chase, she loves the field and she is good with people, and she quickly learnt how to shape a story and pull a reader in,” Steve Erlanger, the chief diplomatic correspondent described her and gave this as the reason she was hired at the NYT.

However, these praises seemed to have had her lower her guard on her reporting of the DusitD2 attack — at least in the eyes of Kenyans.

In her report of the Paris attack of November 13, 2015 that left at least 129 people dead, where she teamed up with Andrew Higgins, they traced how a terrorist Abdelhamid Abaaoud. The story documents how he operated and how the police were able to intercept the attack.

A year later, she did a report on the Brussels terrorist attack of March 26, 2016 that left at least 31 dead. The report told a story through the eyes of a driver who drove the three alleged terrorists. The story dug into their lives and how they went about undetected.

Her firsthand account reporting of the January 15, 2019 Nairobi attack offers an interesting perspective, as can be seen from the language she uses.

“One man emerged covered with blood, and others less obviously wounded were also sent to nearby hospitals. As of 6 p.m., an unspecified number of people were still huddled inside the complex, according to local news reports and posts on Twitter,” the report read in part.

Some of the photos showed are very disturbing and show some of the bloodied victims being carried out. From the look of things, it is going to be a tough couple of days for Kimiko as Kenyans continue to agitate for her to be fired from her position.


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