Kenyan media prepare to battle new press laws

Legal challenge expected against "draconian" new regulator

27 Jan 2014
Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta has introduced tough new media laws. Image Demotix/David Mbiyu

Kenyan president Uhuru Kenyatta has introduced tough new media laws. Image Demotix/David Mbiyu

Kenya’s media are preparing to launch a challenge to a new system of regulation introduced by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Early this month, jointly with the Law Society of Kenya (LSK), journalists instructed senior lawyer Mr. James Aggery Orengo, who is also a senator, to file a petition challenging the Kenya Information and Communication Amendment Bill 2013.

The new laws have neither been published nor gazetted in the Kenyan gazette as required by law.

Journalists are waiting for the bill to be published and gazzeted in the Kenyan gazette, before they move to court.

Senior Counsel Paul Muite who ran for presidency in last year’s general elections and lost, is among a host of lawyers who will represent the media in court.

The draconian media bill was passed by the National Assembly, and signed into law by President Uhuru Muigai Kenyatta late last year.

President Kenyatta’s assent paved the way for formation of a government controlled body, with mandate to punish journalists and media houses, whose reporting is perceived to be against the law.

The new law imposes Kshs. 20 million fines on media houses and Kshs. 1 million shillings on individual journalists seen to have contravened the law.

Individual Journalists are also faced with the danger of being suspended from the journalism profession, a move that is out rightly oppressive and intimidating.

The law restricts press freedom, and breaches constitutional rights for access to information granted to journalists.

The controversial laws seek to gag the freedom of expression and press freedom, as lawfully entailed in the constitution of Kenya 2010.

However, the fines will only apply to persons and media houses that contravene the provisions of the Code of Conduct for the Practice of Journalism.

Before passage and ascension, media practitioners, various politicians NGOs had voiced concerns over the ruthless bill.

The bill went through parliament unamended, even after The Media Council of Kenya (MCK) had agreed with Kenyan law makers to amend contentious issues, in the Kenya Information and Communication Amendment (KICA) Bill 2013.

Chairperson of the Media Council’s Ethics and Public Information Committee Grace Munjuri said “the amendments will not only protect the rights of the media stakeholders, but will also ensure that journalists exercise responsible reporting.”

Speaking a few days before ascending to the media bill, President Uhuru Kenyatta had suggested that there was nothing unconstitutional with the bill.

Addressing residents at a function in Chuka in Kenya’s Tharaka Nithi County, in the company of his deputy William Samoei Ruto, the head of state accused the media of “misleading the country on provisions of the legislations”.

The two leaders said the media itself had hatched a plan to mislead Kenyans on the contents of the Bill, saying there should be responsibility in everything we do as Kenyans.

This article was posted on 27 January at 

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