Friday, December 12, 2008



Outrage over passage of media Bill

By Standard Team

Media organisations, trade unions, journalists and professional organisations expressed outrage at the passage the Kenya Communication Amendment Bill.
The Media Owners Association asked President Kibaki not to sign the Bill into law. The organisation’s vice-chairman, Mr Martin Kafafa, accused Information Minister Samuel Poghisio of betrayal and going against an undertaking with stakeholders to withdraw the offensive clauses.

"They took away the freedoms we fought for in the Second Liberation," said Kafafa, adding that revenge, not reason or statesmanship, was the motive for the unanimous vote.

Political motive
He said Mr Poghisio had an axe to grind with the media for exposing his "claim to illegal allowances" now the subject of investigation by the Kenya Anti-Corruption Commission.

The Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ) said part three of the Kenya Communication (Amendment) Bill has a political motive that seeks to bring broadcasting under a telecommunications law to terrorise the media.

KUJ said Parliament’s Energy and Communication Committee and the Information Ministry ignored the union’s proposal to introduce a separate Bill to direct the broadcast industry, instead of lumping the sector with telecommunications.

The Federation of Kenya Women Lawyers (Fida) and Editors Guild said the new law is unconstitutional, illegal and oppressive. It goes also against democratic principles.

Editors Guild Vice-Chairman Hassan Kulundu said Poghisio has suspect motives for trying to control the broadcast media with a law, initially created for the telecommunications sector.

Fida Vice-chairperson Violent Awori said the Government was imposing a "draconian law" in a crusade to "control" the masses and urged Kibaki to reject it.

The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) South Rift branch Secretary Gideon Mutai termed the passage of the Bill into law as the most shameful Christmas gift to Kenyans by MPs.

Mr Mutai petitioned Kibaki not to assent the Bill into law saying this would return the country into the dark ages where the Government used its powers to muzzle to the operations of the Press.

Fr Ambrose Kimutai of Kaptebengwet Catholic parish and politician William Keteinya said many Kenyans lost their lives when fighting for the freedom of the Press.

Narrow democratic space

"We want the international community to intervene and save the media from being taken back to the dark ages. Kenyans have a right to information and raise issues touching on them freely through the media," Kimutai said. 

National Labour Party chairman and former Changamwe MP Mr Kennedy Kiliku said the Bill would narrow the country’s democratic space, as it would ensure no free Press.

"The Bill should not be given presidential assent because it is not in public interest as required by Parliamentary Standing Orders. It will work against Kenyans including the MPs themselves," Kiliku said.

Council of Imams and Preachers of Kenya (CIPK) South Coast chairman Sheikh Khamis Banda claimed MPs were sneaking back colonial and undemocratic tendencies.

"MPs are taking us backwards over the passing of this Bill and we must reject it. We are asking Kibaki not to assent to the Bill because it does not serve the interests of Kenyans," Banda said.

— Reports by David Ochami, Patrick Beja, Peter Mutai, Dedan Okanga and Osinde Obare