CS plans to bar journalists from sitting on Media Council board

Information Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo (centre) when appeared before the National Assembly Departmental Committee on Communication, Information, and Innovation. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

ICT Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo is mulling over barring employees of media houses and leaders of media associations from sitting on the Media Council of Kenya (MCK) Board, citing conflict of interest.

This is after the Attorney General on February 15, issued an advisory to the ICT Ministry urging it to preclude public servants, employees of media houses, and leaders of media associations from being members of the Council on grounds that “their positions may create a potential conflict of interest situations and to avoid interference with the independence of the council.”

According to the advisory, this was to ensure the Council’s independence from government, political, and commercial interests as contemplated by the Constitution and the Media Council Act.

Owalo, who appeared before the National Assembly Departmental Committee on Communication, Information, and Innovation in Nairobi yesterday, said the advisory “maybe” considered in the ongoing MCK board member recruitment.

“Attorney General’s advisory may be considered by the selection panel at the point of shortlisting of applicants or by the Cabinet Secretary during the rejection of an applicant as contemplated under section 7(11) of the Act,” he said.

“At the date of this response, the ministry is not privy to the deliberations of the selection panel regarding the advisory cited except for the two letters contesting the advisory referred above,” he added.

Already, a 13-member team has been selected to sit on the board.

They include Oscar Obonyo of Kenya Union of Journalists, Emmanuel Juma (Media Owners Association), Macharia Gaitho (Kenya Editors Guild), Marlene Achieng Abong'o (Law Society of Kenya), William Oloo Janak (Kenya Correspondents Association), Sylvia Mwichuli (Public Relations Society of Kenya), Daniel Waitere (National Gender and Equality Commission), Julius Melli (Association of Professional Societies in East Africa) and Benjamin Langwen (Consumers Federation of Kenya).

Others are Josephine Kinuthia of Kenya News Agency, Dr Kinya Mwithia from Daystar University, and Dr Jane Thuo from the University of Nairobi.

Owalo said two members of the selection panel had since written to the ministry demanding that the advisory by the AG be discarded.