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Stakeholders want new Media Bill

By Ally Jamah | November 20th 2013 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

Media Council of Kenya Chairman Joseph Odindo (right) and Chief Executive Officer Haron Mwangi, address the Press at the Nairobi Intercontinental Hotel Tuesday. [Photo: Mbugua Kibera/Standard]

By Ally Jamah

Nairobi, Kenya: Stakeholders in the media industry are expected to meet with MPs to table their proposals on contentious issues regarding two pieces of legislation that have been described as draconian and a threat to free press in the country.

Officials of the Media Council of Kenya, which brings together a host of stakeholders in the media, revealed yesterday that they have finalised their proposals on the two bills to be shared with members of the Parliamentary Committee on Energy, Information and Communication in coming days.

Media Council Chairman Joseph Odindo said they want the Information and Communication Amendments Bill, 2013, passed recently by MPs, to be withdrawn altogether and a new one drafted.

Mr Odindo added that the Media Council Bill, 2013, which has gone through the second reading in Parliament, should incorporate proposals agreed on by stakeholders in the media industry.

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New proposals

“We have a set of proposals that we believe will cure the ills in the two media bills currently before the House. We appeal to MPs to approach these laws with the best interests of Kenyans at heart,” he said yesterday after a meeting in a Nairobi hotel. 

Deputy Chairperson of the Editors’ Guild David Ohito said media stakeholders have rejected the idea of having a tribunal to deal with complaints against media houses and journalists, saying such a move would have dire legal consequences.

Instead, he said, a commission should be put in place under the ambit of the Media Council to address such issues.

He also indicated that stakeholders have agreed to include requirements to continually improve the code of conduct for journalists in a rapidly evolving media environment.

“We propose three bills to ensure independence of the media from interference by the State and we oppose the cabinet secretary for ICT having any role in any form of appointments to the Media Council. We oppose the de-registration of journalists by bodies that are not professional and composed of people competent in the workings of media and journalism,” he said.

Unconstitutional laws

Media Owners Associations Chairman Kiprono Kittony advised MPs against passing unconstitutional laws that would eventually be challenged in court and struck down.

He insisted that regulation of media content should be the work of the Media Council, not the Communications Commission of Kenya, which should be left to handle the hardware part of broadcasting.

Senior Programme Officer of the non-government pressure group Article 19 Eastern Africa, Stephanie Muchai, said they would launch a massive campaign via social media networks against attempts to curtail freedom of expression and shrink civic space.

Journalists have opposed the hefty fines proposed in the KICA Bill, which put personal penalties of up to Sh1 million for journalists and Sh20 million for media houses.

The media practitioners argued that few community radio stations or low income earning journalist could survive such punitive penalties.

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