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MPs let down media, entire country with draconian Bill

By letters | November 4th 2013 at 12:00:00 GMT +0300

Kenya: The Rights Promotion and Protection Centre stands behind the Media Council of Kenya and the entire media fraternity in expressing disappointment with the National Assembly for passing of the draconian media Bill.

The Kenya Information and Communication Bill goes totally against all that our constitution stands for in terms of freedom of speech and freedom of the media. According to the constitution, it is illegal for the government to “interfere with any person engaged in broadcasting, the production or circulation of any publication or the dissemination of information by any medium”. The constitution goes further to prohibit the state from penalising anyone for any opinion or view.

This Bill establishes an all-powerful media tribunal appointed by a panel selected by the Cabinet Secretary. The tribunal is allowed by the Bill to do whatever it wants to ensure that its orders and directives are effected. Some of the powers of the tribunal include coming up with a code of conduct for all journalists and media houses, which if contravened would result in hefty fines of up to Sh1 million per journalist or Sh20 million for media houses.

The government can raid their bank accounts to recover this money and possibly seek to have them declared bankrupt, should they fail to pay these fines. The tribunal can also recommend the suspension or removal of a journalist from the register of journalists for not abiding by the code of conduct.

Kenyans have for years fought for press freedom. For the National Assembly to, in one sitting and with the vote of a mere 60 members, attempt to bring this freedom to an end is to take us back to the dark days. MPs let the media fraternity down and betrayed everything that Kenyans have fought for. The media is an important tool in any democracy and helps keep the government in check. Gagging the media is a sign of cowardice and shows the government doesn’t want to be monitored or kept in check.

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We, therefore, call upon President Uhuru Kenyatta to reject this Bill in its entirety until it is redrafted according to the principles of our constitution. If the president does not listen to the voices of reason, he will be going against the constitution he swore to protect.

 {Eunice Oloo, Acting Executive Co-ordinator}

It is the Jubilee team, through its adjunct in Parliament, that sponsored the offensive Bill. Could President Kenyatta be oblivious to what his team is up to? Tell it to the birds. Jubilee should know that civil liberties (media freedom included), were hard won.

They weren’t gifts from a benevolent being – the freedoms were won with some even shedding their blood. The MPs’ agenda is to have a lame duck media that cannot ask tough questions like the bothering ones on the Westgate attack.

{Nicholas Cheruiyot, Bomet}

Media Council of Kenya media Bill
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