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Editors’ Guild writes to Parliament petitioning removal of Mutemi from MCK Board

COUNTIES
By Mercy Asamba | March 1st 2021

Kenya Editors Guild (KEG) President Churchill Otieno at a past event. [File, Standard]

The Kenya Editors’ Guild has written to the National Assembly to petition over the removal of Media Council of Kenya board member.

In a letter to Clerk of the National Assembly, Michael Sialai, the Editor’s Guild President Charles Otieno said the purported removal of Tabitha Mutemi outside the procedures outlined in the Media Council Act will destabilize MCK.

“Our petition, attached, sets out our reservations which are grounded on the need to uphold the sanctity of the law, independence of the Media regulatory body, and independence of the media as guaranteed by the Constitution,” Otieno said.

Otieno said the Guild is aware that the National Assembly’s Departmental Committee on Communication, Information and Innovation had called a meeting on March 3, 2021, for all interested persons to deliberate on the issue.

“We hope that our position, as captured in the petition, will be taken into consideration,” Otieno said. 

He added: “If required, we will be happy to attend and make further representation. It is our hope that the National Assembly will rise to the occasion and assert its role in the processes leading to the removal of an MCK Council member.”

The Guild yesterday asked MCK to retract its letter seeking to withdraw recognition of Tabitha Mutemi as Council Board Member.

Mr Otieno urged the warring parties to pull back and seek a mediated solution in order to uphold the integrity of MCK and protect it from unseemly public wrangles.

According to Otieno, KEG is disturbed by the continuing impasse over the attempted removal of Mutemi.

“Insofar as it is the body mandated by the Constitution of Kenya to oversee the Media co-regulatory framework, it is our view that any actions which impact on the integrity and independence of the Media Council by extension pose a threat to media freedom,” said Otieno.

Trouble started on January 11, 2021 when MCK Chief Executive Officer, David Omwoyo wrote to the Chairman, Maina Muiruri informing him that Mutemi was no longer recognized as a member of the MCK Board.

Mutemi had been appointed following a successful interview by a stakeholder selection panel, and duly gazetted as a member of the MCK board by the Cabinet Secretary for ICT, Innovation and Youth Affairs Joe Mucheru on October 31, 2019.

Omwoyo cited an advisory from the Office of Attorney-General dated August 18, 2020, to the effect that a person holding a public service appointment is prohibited from holding another job in the public office.

The advisory followed a June 16, 2020 request from the Principal Secretary for ICT on whether Mutemi, an employee of the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission, could also serve on the MCK board.

Following the advisory from the Office of the Attorney General, the PS in September 26, 2021, wrote to the Media Council directing that Mutemi could not sit on the Council.

“This was the basis on which the CEO subsequently wrote informing the Chairman that the Secretariat no longer ‘recognized’ Ms Mutemi as a member of the Council,” said Otieno.

Otieno said all these developments are deeply disturbing as they ignore due process, and in particular, the laid down mechanism for appointment and removal of MCK Council members.

“This mechanism by itself underpins independence of the MCK, and by extension independence of the Media,” he said.

He added that the Media Council Act specifically provided for independent selection panels for the Council and the Media Complaints Commission in order to safeguard media freedom by insulating the appointments process from external pressure and influence.

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