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House concludes debate on Media Council Bill 2013

By Alphonce Shiundu | November 20th 2013

By Alphonce Shiundu

Nairobi, Kenya: MPs Tuesday concluded debate on the Media Council of Kenya Bill, 2013.

The vote to conclude debate was unanimous. MPs now have until December 5 to approve the Bill.

The next step is for the MPs to bring amendments to the Bill to ensure that it guarantees independence of the media and freedom of journalists, and opens the door to self-regulation of all journalists in the country.

The proposed amendments according to the House Committee on Energy, Information and Communication, include a move to give the Media Council of Kenya the power to register newspapers in the country.

The MPs said they will have the ultimate say on who sits on the council even after the selection panel comprising media owners, journalists, editors, correspondents, journalism scholars and lecturers, and the Ministry of Information and Communication, picks the best candidates.

The MPs have also proposed a two-year maximum jail-term or a Sh10 million maximum fine for anyone who distributes, prints or even imports newspapers that are not licensed by the council.

There’s also a proposal to jail people found consuming unlicensed publications for a maximum of two months, or simply fine them a maximum of Sh10,000 or both. But even with the permit, the council reserves the right to revoke or suspend it “at any time”.

The committee, in its report tabled in the House a month ago, also denied the Government power to make regulations on the recommendation of the Media Council. Instead, they said, they would have the monopoly on setting the code of conduct for journalists.

“It is the legitimate role of the National Assembly to amend any existing law and this role cannot be exercised by any other authority,” the committee report said.

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