Gag orders killing press liberty, says watchdog

Media Council of Kenya CEO David Omuoyo (left) with chairman Maina Muiruri during a press briefing in KIsumu on Friday. [Collins Oduor, Standard]
The Media Council of Kenya (MCK) has said the increasing number of gag orders from courts was threatening press freedom in the country.

In a press statement issued in Kisumu on Saturday, the council told the Judiciary to restrain itself from issuing preemptive gagging orders meant to stop the media from airing or publishing stories of national interest.

In the statement signed by MCK Chief Executive Officer and Secretary David Omwoyo, the media regulator asked the Judiciary not to allow itself to be used as an altar upon which press freedom will be sacrificed.

"This (gag orders) is a worrying trend which is designed to restrain journalists in the course of their work and in some cases intimidate them from carrying out investigative pieces," said Mr Omwoyo

The council issued the statement at the end of meeting held in Kisumu on Friday to induct newly appointed members, led by chairman Maina Muiruri.

MCK noted that the new worrying developments, coupled with the increasing physical attacks on journalists, posed real threats to press freedom.

"We cannot stand and watch this happen as it violates the very foundations of journalistic practice and our constitutionally mandated function as the Media Council of Kenya, " said Mr Omwoyo.

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A number of media houses have in the recent past been retrained by court orders from publishing or airing certain stories.

"We have noted with concern and consternation that despite the effort by journalists to apply the highest level of ethical standards in covering sensitive stories, subjects of these stories have taken advantage of this goodwill to rush to courts for pre-emptive gagging orders," he said.

Omwoyo said the council was committed to ensuring journalists in Kenya adhere to the highest standards of professionalism.

"This is why we are introducing new accreditation guidelines which will ensure that only professionals are allowed to practice journalism," he said.

Mr Muiruri was accompanied by eight council members recently appointed by ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru for three years. 

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Media Council of KenyaDavid OmwoyoGag orderMedia freedom