By David Ohito
NAIROBI, KENYA: The freedom of media in Kenya came under attack as the final amendments to silence a free press were earmarked for debate in the National Assembly with draconian clauses intact.
In the Kenya Information and Communications amendment bill 2013 has created a tribunal which will be addressing media complaints as opposed to the stakeholder proposals of the function being done by the Media Council of Kenya.
The tribunal will wield powers to impose hefty fines against individual journalists perceived to be critical of government and powerful individuals. They may be ordered to pay up to Sh1 million as fines while media house pays Sh20 million.
Worse still in the clauses will be the powers to recommend the suspension and or order the de-registration of a journalist at will, a function previously performed by the Media Council of Kenya.
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The news came as a shock to practitioners and media stakeholders as the Order Paper and the final amendments were set for discussion Thursday afternoon on the floor of the National Assembly.
The draconian pieces of legislation are contained in the decision the tribunal will be able to make.
And says in part under article 102E that the journalists and media houses risk hefty fines should they violate Media Act, the Kenya information and Communication Act or the code of conduct of journalists.
The media stakeholders have been up in arms on the fate of the press freedom enjoyed in Kenya that may be whittled down should such clauses be passed by the whole House.
Article 19 director Henry Maina cautioned that the freedom previously enjoyed by the media will be gagged by the proposed laws that were set for the Third Reading in the National Assembly.
“Effectively what they have done is to make the Media Council of Kenya useless and many FM stations will not survive the hefty fines proposed." Maina said in an interview.
For detailed discussions we will carry comprehensive analyses in The Standard and more commentaries online.