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New rules could threaten freedom of expression, media professionals warn

By Judah Ben-Hur | October 12th 2020
Journalists staged protests along the streets of Nairobi Tuesday in disproval of some clauses in the Media Bill. [File, STANDARD]

The Kenya Media Sector Working Group (KMSWG) has warned the government on its attempt to muzzle the media following the ratification of a government statement that constraints the media on reporting of political events.

The government statement stated that media outlets would be responsible for all the content they publish and broadcast. Other demands from the ratified statement required the media not to provide a platform for “hate mongers, inciters and tribalists.”

“We would also caution against any curbs that threaten editorial independence and prerogatives, or any attempts to silence discordant voices that may seem to find expression through the media,” read the statement.

However, KMSWG has urged the National Security Advisory Committee (NSAC) to review such an order, which, if implemented, will significantly erode the gains made in strengthening the free and responsible media industry in the country.

“The leadership of the media industry, therefore, urges that the NSAC statement and the Multi-Agency Team on Public Order terms of reference be reviewed to remove any that pose threats to media freedom as outlined in Section 6 of the Media Council Act, and the general freedom of speech, expression and communications enjoyed by all citizens,” read the statement.

The statement came to effect following the recent political tensions that have been fueled by political utterances and activities that continue to widen the already existing rift within the electorates.

Two people died in Kenol, Murang’a county on October 4 after violent clashes erupted between two opposing camps allied to Jubilee Party.

The statement will also hold accountable personal social media accounts that will share content that constitutes hate speech, ethnic contempt, incitement to violence, abuse, harassment and defamation.

Anyone who wishes to hold public meetings will be required to “notify the Officer Commanding Station(OCS) of such intent at least three days but not more than fourteen days before the proposed date of the public meeting or procession.”

KMSWG has faulted the move by NSAC as illegal because it did not engage in consultation with media regulatory bodies found in the law.

“Any breaches of the ethical guidelines in reporting under the current political environment are best addressed under the established mechanisms, including the Media Complaints Commission rather than by giving security agencies unchecked powers to control the media,” read the statement by KMSWG.

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