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MPs defer talks on presidential memo to seek support

By By ALPHONCE SHIUNDU | Published Wed, December 4th 2013 at 00:00, Updated December 3rd 2013 at 23:30 GMT +3
MPs defer talks on presidential memo to seek support.


Kenya: MPs suspended discussion on the Presidential Memorandum of the Kenya Information and Communication (amendment) Bill for a day, to allow them to put final touches on a “compromise” that the lawmakers had reached with players in the media industry.

This is the first indication that the MPs are serious about changing the punitive clauses that the President had retained in the Bill.

The suspension of the debate and adoption on the memorandum also gives the committee time to lobby so that they can get the minimum two-thirds majority required to kibosh some of the retrogressive proposals that President Uhuru Kenyatta wanted included in the law.

The chairman of the House Committee on Energy, Communication and Information Jamleck Kamau told the House that for the past two days, the committee has been meeting industry players to agree on the changes.

“We have actually gotten a compromise,” said Kamau.

The committee chairman said the final meeting with editors, media owners and journalists was scheduled for (Tuesday) evening, and as soon as the final touches are done, then the committee will approach the Attorney General Prof Githu Muigai and the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution to gauge the constitutionality of the deal.

“We will consult the CIC and the AG so that we are sure that whatever comes to the House is constitutional,” said Kamau.

Kamau added that the 24 more hours he had bought ahead of discussing the presidential memorandum was meant to allow him time to “mobilise the MPs” to show up in the House to defeat the presidential memorandum.

“I will request members to be available at 2.30pm, so that we are able to move together in the same direction, I will be very very happy,” Kamau told the House.

The House needs 233 MPs to change or reject the presidential memorandum.

The debate on the controversial Bill was put off on the day that journalists took to the streets.

President Kenyatta submitted the memorandum to the MPs in a letter dated November 27 which is signed by his Chief of Staff Joseph Kinyua and copied to the Attorney General Githu Muigai, his senior advisor of constitutional affairs Abdikadir Mohammed and the Clerk of the National Assembly Justin Bundi.

In it, the President retained fines against media houses at a maximum Sh20 million and set a new maximum of Sh500,000 for the journalists who are found guilty to have breached the law.

The President also reinstated a clause to give the Cabinet Secretary in charge of Information and Communication, Dr Fred Matiang’i, the power to “issue policy guidelines of a general nature” to the Communications Authority of Kenya.