In a new move that has created uproar in the media fraternity, Members of the National Assembly On Thursday passed a bill that if assented to by the President of Kenya will see journalists and media houses violating the Code of Conduct set in the bill slapped with hefty fines.
Here are some important points you need to know about the The Kenya Information and Communications Amendment Bill 2013 that will see the creation of a powerful tribunal to address media complaints as opposed to the current situation where media grievances have always been addressed through the Media Council of Kenya (MCK).
- The Bill gives the government power to kick journalists out of the media and to raid the accounts of media houses and journalists judged to be in breach of the code of conduct.
- Parliament is allowed by the Constitution to write a law regulating the media by setting and monitoring compliance of rules. This is however against the Constitution which prohibits the control of such a body by the government, political or commercial interests. The Constitution also prohibits the state from controlling the media in any way whatsoever.According to the Constitution; it is illegal for the government to “interfere with any person engaged in broadcasting, the production or circulation of any publication or the dissemination of information by any medium”. It also bans the state from penalising anyone for any opinion or view.
The MPs also hastily accepted a proposal by the Energy, Information and Communication Committee which is chaired by Mr Jamleck Kamau for the creation of the Communications and Multimedia Appeals Tribunal. This tribunal according to the proposal will have the power to “impose a fine of not more than Sh20 million on any respondent media enterprise…adjudged to have violated either that law or the Code of Conduct for the Practice of Journalism.”
- It will also have the power to fine individual journalists “not more than Sh1 million” for violating the same code. The tribunal also has the power to recommend the suspension or removal of a journalist from the register of journalists.This also contradicts the Constitution which prohibits Parliament from passing any law limiting the freedom of the press.
The bill was passed by Sixty MPs, which is also equivalent to 17 per cent of the National Assembly, dealing a serious blow to efforts to create an open and progressive free press society.