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Proposed regulations target to muzzle investigative scribes

By Frankline Sunday | June 18th 2015
Cabinet Secretary for ICT Fred Matiang'i during a stakeholders forum of the task force on the review of the broadcasting regulations held yesterday in a Nairobi hotel.

A task force has proposed amendments to broadcasting regulations which signal a tough era for the media industry.

Key proposals made by the task force picked last month to review the Kenya Information and Communications Broadcasting Regulations 2015 contain amendments that if passed, could be open to misinterpretation and potentially deal a death knell to investigative journalism.

One of the recommendations state that broadcasters' presentation of news and commentaries must ensure that morbid, violent, sensational or alarming details not essential to a factual report that would create unnecessary panic, alarm or harm are not broadcast.

This proposal has been made to check what the task force terms as "provision to take care of investigative journalism excesses" and "to protect public interest."

The clause, while meant to check the excesses of graphic programming, could be used to legally block television stations and documentary makers from airing investigative journalism programmes the Government may not like.

In addition to this, the task force has made new recommendations concerning advertising on broadcast media during electioneering periods requiring broadcasters to name sponsors, political parties and campaigners before and after a paid advert.

However, the task force states that the proposals are not meant to muzzle the media and are as yet proposals which are meant to be debated by all the stakeholders.

"These are just proposals and that is why we are here today in the hope that we can collect views from all the necessary stakeholders and input them in our report and the idea is not to kill investigative journalism," stated chairperson of the task force Albert Kamunde,.

In the wake of the Westgate Mall attack in 2013, the Government took issue with investigative reports from local and international broadcasting houses including Standard Group's KTN and Al Jazeera, which suggested it had not revealed everything about the attack.

Subsequent investigative pieces on the extrajudicial killings of terrorism suspects also by the two media houses have further been a source of disquiet from the Government.

If enacted, the proposed amendments could make the production and airing of such investigative pieces nearly impossible.

Public's privacy

The task force has also made proposals targeting broadcasters who, in the course of producing their content violate the privacy of the public. "Programmes that involve capturing of events or actions where people are unaware and/or hence may infringe on a person's privacy shall be aired subject to their consent or should be otherwise warranted," reads the amendment.

This means that content producers of shows like 'Naswa' or 'Just for Laughs', which have gained popularity among viewers, must first seek consent from those who have been filmed before broadcasting the content.

Broadcasters who do not meet the set local content quota will further be required to pay a certain amount of money, which will be prescribed by the Communications Authority and channeled to a fund dedicated to fund the development of local content.

ICT Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i (pictured) states that the provision is welcome to build the capacity of the film industry and promote local content given that consumers are already developing an increased appetite for the same. "We want to push the share of local programming to 60 per cent by 2018," he said.

Consumer Federation of Kenya head Stephen Mutoro who is also a member of the task force further stated that the proposals have yet to be agreed on.

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