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Parliament set to discuss media bills before President Uhuru Kenyatta’s proposals are considered

By ROSELYNE OBALA
Updated Tue, December 3rd 2013 at 00:00 GMT +3
A journalist in Nakuru poses with handcuffs and a camera Monday. Journalists across the country will Tuesday hold silent protests against the proposed draconian media laws.  [PHOTO: BONIFACE THUKU/STANDARD]

By ROSELYNE OBALA

NAIROBI, KENYA: Journalists will Tuesday stage countrywide protests to register their disquiet with the draconian media bills.

At the same time, CORD will hold a special Parliamentary Group meeting to discuss the President’s memorandum on the KICA Bill ahead of debate in Parliament this afternoon.

In Nairobi, members of the Fourth Estate will congregate at Nation Centre along Kimathi Street and head to the Office of the President, Deputy President, Attorney General and finally in Parliament.

Editors Guild Vice Chairman David Ohito and Kenya Correspondents Association (KCA) Chairman Oloo Janak confirmed the meeting. They spoke after meeting Parliament’s Energy and Communication Committee.

 “The demonstrations are countrywide. The bills are bad; they are gagging the media with their draconian provisions. The Media Owners Associations and the Kenya Editors Guild are with us on this journey,” Ohito stated.

COUNTY LEVEL

Janak affirmed that all journalists have been mobilised at the county level and in major towns.

“Preparations are complete and we have put measures in place to ensure it becomes a success and all our colleagues are part of the protest,” said Janak.

Journalists also appealed to MPs to shoot down the oppressive bills, emphasising the matter is of national importance.

“We call on MPs wherever they are to be present in Parliament to deliberate on the matter before they go on recess. Let them address the contentious and controversial clauses,” urged Ohito. Media stakeholders want the current proposed fine reduced to Sh100, 000, down from the Sh500,000 that was to be imposed on any journalist who breached the law and that imposed on media houses reduced to Sh500,000, down from Sh20 million.

“They want complaints against journalists handled by an Ethics Complaints Committee or the Media Council of Kenya (MCK) and not the proposed Communications and Multimedia Appeals Tribunal with sweeping powers as proposed in the Bill,” said Ohito.

MCK has been the statutory organ responsible for the regulation of the media, media enterprises and the conduct and discipline of journalists.

“We held marathon consultative meetings to try address the problem with the legislation. We are making progress however, this is not satisfactory,” reiterated Ohito.

STATE CONTROL

He explained: “We deliberated on the KICA Bill in totality, identifying the critical issues including the President’s memorandum and if it is to be passed the way it is, it will amount to State control.”

Chairman of the Energy, Communication and Information Committee Jamleck Kamau concurred with the media stakeholders and noted that though they will be confined to the President’s memorandum, it will be up to the legislators to marshal the required numbers to shoot down the Bill.

Ohito disclosed that the President’s memorandum might be discussed in the House today or tomorrow.

Janak noted that though the committee is committed to Press freedom, there are forces out to derail the process and take Kenyans back to the dark days.

“There is pressure from other quarters to frustrate the process. There is however, a window of opportunity for media stakeholders and the community to initiate change,” he stated.

He said if MPs are confined to the memorandum brought by the President, the media stands to lose greatly.

“Let MPs marshal numbers to have the changes effected now as the next amendments can only be undertaken after six months. He added: “After six months, positions may have hardened. We call on every Kenyan to note this is the chance to stop the Bill becoming law. It will block the public from speaking about certain issues,” he argued. The media stakeholders received clearance from police after they served notice to hold peaceful demonstrations.

Parliament is scheduled to consider two controversial media bills on Tuesday afternoon, the same will be the subject of street protests by journalists.

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