'Proposed Powers and Privileges law violates Constitution'

NAIROBI: The National Assembly violated constitutional provisions on freedom of the media and access to information by passing draconian amendments to the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Bill, churches have said.

The National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) said the bill, which prescribes a two-year jail term and/or Sh500,000 fine for "scandalising' MPs, was designed to shield lawmakers from public scrutiny.

NCCK General Secretary Peter Karanja said reporting on MPs behaving badly informs Kenyans on what their representatives do and it is irresponsible to keep battering the messenger instead of improving the message.

"Passage of the amendments is a bitter reminder of the circus that has continued to characterise the 11th Parliament. If the bill is passed with clauses that propose hefty penalties to those who would be seen to have 'scandalised Parliament,' we can only assume that MPs would have clearly stated their position on where they stand on matters of accountability," Canon Karanja said.


Bishop Cornelius Korir of the Catholic Diocese of Eldoret cautioned MPs against denying the public right to information.

"It is wrong for them to be prefects on behalf of all undertakings, the public needs to know what is happening and that involves scrutinising their leadership through the help of the media," Bishop Korir explained.

Reverend Maritim Rirei of the Anglican Church said: "The Bill is a negation and a platform for legislators entrusted with leadership by the citizens to continue abetting corruption." Bishop Julius Abungana said the bill was against the spirit of the Constitution which guards rights to information.