Wednesday, December 17, 2008



December 16 2008

The controversial Communications Bill sparked a heated debate in Parliament on Tuesday. During the discussion, only Prime Minister Raila Odinga and Cabinet ministers Mutula Kilonzo and Anyang’ Nyong’o stood up for the freedom of the media despite spirited attacks by over 10 MPs.

The Speaker of the National Assembly, Mr Kenneth Marende, said he would make a ruling on whether MPs who had diswoned the Bill outside parliament were wrong.

Mr Odinga said Parliament was the supreme law making body in the country and its decision must be respected. Said Mr Odinga: “The Fourth Estate (media) is also important in a democratic country. we have come along way fighting for freedom of association, of religion and of the press. There was a time when politicians could not even hold a press conference or report about the torture chambers at Nyayo House.”

Issues too weighty
The PM said it would be a sad day for the country if those gains were lost, saying: “Any attempts to gag the media must be stopped.”

The Speaker announced that the issues raised were too weighty for him to make a hurried ruling, saying he would do so at the earliest possible opportunity.
Said Mr Marende: “This issue threatens to tear our country apart. As an interim measure, I appeal to the media and members to show patriotism in the true sense and restrain themselves. I will ask the media to stop their fire power until the matter is resolved.”

Turning to the members, the Speaker challenged them to read the Order Paper daily whether they were in or out of Nairobi or the country, saying it was on the website.

On her part, Justice minister revealed that as the deputy leader of government business, she was aware that the controversial Bill was cleared by the House Business committee, and she was also aware that the chairman of the energy and information committee, Karachuonyo MP James Rege, was fully aware of the issues and had been updated by his party leader, Mr Odinga.

Ms Karua said they had asked Mr Rege to ensure that he consults fully with all player in the media before the Bill was brought to the House.

Said the Justice minister: “Mr Speaker, we need direction on when we pass a Bill and a member tries to score political mileage outside the House at the expense of members. The issue is not whether it will be given assent, but on what is our role as Parliament in legislation.”

Supporting Ms Karua, Mr Kenyatta saying all Bills were Government-driven any minister as free to raise an issue during the Cabinet meeting.

Said the DPM: “Is it in order for a member to appeal to the public when the Bill was on the order paper for all members to know the business of the day? If he had an issue the doors were open to come and raise them.”

Mr Kenyatta appealed to the Speaker to restore the rule of law and dignity of the House.

Earlier, Mr Odinga, who was a presidential election in the General Elections last year, revisited the tallying centre at Kenyatta International Conference Centre, saying he was informed that the editors of the broadcasting stations were ordered to stop live coverage by orders from above sitting the Kenya Communications Bill.

But the PM ran into trouble when he passed the buck over the Bill saying:” The Bill did not come to this House through the coalition Government. The House is entitled to a complete disclosure!”

Medical Services Assistant minister, Mr Danson Mungatana, who had kicked off the issue while requesting Speaker Kenneth Marende to make a ruling on what he described as media trying to gag the august House over the coverage of the public reaction to the passing of the draconian Bill.

Said Mr Mungatana: “It will be a very sad day for this House for members of the Cabinet who sit in the House Business Committee to come here and disown what they had passed. Is the PM in order to raise the issue of the coalition Government in this matter? When we vote we vote as members.”

In his defence, the PM denied questioning the integrity of the Cabinet and of HBC members, saying he wanted to clarify that the Bill was not discussed by the coalition Government formed in February by PNU and ODM in February following the post elections violence.

Mr Odinga, who is the ODM leader, insisted that the controversial Bill was mooted before the Coalition Government was formed, saying he chairs all the Cabinet sub committees and knew what he was talking about, as members protested and tried to catch the eye of the Speaker in order to be allowed to contribute.

Earlier, Mr Mungatana had kicked off the debate son after question time when he rose and requested the Speaker to rule on the on going debate between the media and MPs over the controversial Bill passed last week.

Said the Assistant minister: “There is a serious media campaign against Parliament locally and international because of the Bill.
Parliamenet must be respected and the media is trying to bring us down!”

Mr Mungatana took issue with some MPs who were absent during the debate on the Bill, but had since gone out to criticize their colleagues who passed it, and were also trying to influence President Kibaki not to give it assent, but return it back with amendments.

Asked the Assistant minister: “What is the position of the Speaker when a Cabinet minister goes outside the House Business Committee and issues statements against his colleagues?”

Mr Mungatana also took a swipe at foreign envoys, citing the American and the German ones in particular, for meddling in local politics citing their comments on the draconian Bill.

Turning to the media, the Assistant minister asked: “Mr Speaker, we would also like your ruling on what is to be done to the media that goes out to distort information of parliamentary proceedings and link it to the controversy over the taxation of MPs allowances.”

Mr Mungatana further accused the media of being out to deliberately malign the august House” I believe the House is being vilified for what was not in the Bill. Is the House being gagged by the media or is the media gagging the House? I say the President must and should sign this Bill!”

The Assistant minister who is the MP for Garsen, was supported by Defence Assistant minister, Mr David Musila, Lands assistant minister, Mr Bifwoli Wakoli, Justice minister, Ms Martha Karua, Deputy Prime Minister, Mr Uhuru Kenyatta while Medical services minister Prof Anyan’g Nyon’go, Nairobi Metropolitan Development minister, Mr Mutula Kilonzo and MPs Mr Eseli Simiyu and Mr Gitobu Imanyara took a middle ground.

In his contribution, Mr Musila accused the media of blacklisting some members who supported the controversial Bill and labeling him and Information minister, Mr Samuel Poghisio and Turkana Central MP, Mr Ekwe Ethuro as media enemy number one, two and three.

Mr Musila appealed to the Speaker to protect members from the media saying the integrity of the House and of members must be protected at all times.

The Defense Assistant minister also told foreign envoys accredited to the country to stop meddling in local politics saying their counterparts in Washington and Berlin should be emulated.

In his contribution, Mr Wakoli criticized members who absent themselves from proceedings and go out to comment on the issues they were not a party to.

Said the Lands Assistant minister: “We have some members here who are out to play to the gallery yet they say they want to lead this country!”

Mr Imanyara clarified that he was on a foreign trip in Zimbabwe last week when the Bill was passed. and appealed to the Speaker to take the views of members of the public before he makes his ruling, saying all eyes were on the Legislature to bring reforms to the country.
Mr Eseli Simiyu (Kimilili, Ford Kenya) recalled that the report on post elections violence by the Waki Commission, named the suspects as the political class, the media, security forces and the Electoral Commission of Kenya.

The Kimilili MP wondered how the media would be reformed in line with the Waki report. Prof Nyon’go said he was out of the country on official duty when the draconian Bill was passed, and blamed the showdown on misunderstanding between the media and MPs.

“My appeal is that we should isolate the two issues – MP’s taxes and the ICT Bill. The press is like the mouth piece of MPs. We restored democracy together and we must not take two steps backwards now,” the Medical services minister said.

An angry Mr Ethuro took issue with NTV for naming him media enemy number two for supporting the Bill, saying it was unfortunate as he was in the same parliamentary committee that was responsible for the Bill.

On his part, Nairobi Metropolitan minister also recalled that the Kriegler report on the electoral flaws had a stinging attack on the media, FM stations in particular.

Said Mr Kilonzo: “When people stumble, it is not because of a boulder, but a small stone. as we debate this issue let us be guided by the principle of tolerance.”


Submitted by MichaOlga
Posted December 16, 2008 11:47 PM what are you saying..should we fight against the media bill or just sit down and wait because fighting against it would be hypocritical? Please explain....

Submitted by MichaOlga
Posted December 16, 2008 11:41 PM

Hmmh!These people! I don't even know why they are bothering now...watatoka watake wasitake and the media will be free, come what may!

Submitted by ngongi1
Posted December 16, 2008 11:29 PM

Media is controlled even in Western countries!There is no freedom without boundaries..We as learned Kenyans need to see the complete bill, NOT THE SORT OF THINGS WE ARE SHOWN BY MEDIA LIKE "poster to open your letters!!" Am IN USA and media is not a pretender neither as a non-objective as we Kenyans are!! Wake up and fight truthfully for your country!