Media complaints commission set up

November 28, 2008 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, November 28 – The Media Council of Kenya has established a Commission to handle complaints arising from the violation of the journalism code of conduct.

Council chairman Wachira Waruru on Friday pointed out that the Complaints Commission would set up arbitration panels to handle accusations and compile reports on the decisions made.

“It’s very important that when people have grievances against the media, they have a right to be heard.  It’s also a way of fostering professional standards within the media,” the MCK chairman said.

The five-man commission was established following the enactment of the Media Act 2007 and it consists of a chairperson, who shall be a person who holds or has held a judicial office in Kenya or who is an advocate of the High Court of Kenya of not less than 10 years standing.

The newly inaugurated commission include Lawyer Ken Nyaundi as Chairman, while ICJ Executive Director Priscilla Nyokabi, veteran journalist Peter Mwaura, Professor Murej MacOchieng and a peace and conflict resolution consultant, Dekha Abdi as commissioners.

Mr Nyaundi said that the Commission would endeavour to objectively arbitrate disputes to ensure professional journalism practises.

“We will be a one-stop shop for complaints that are not of necessity defamatory.  But even those that are considered defamatory by complainants, we will entertain them with a view of having a compromise between the parties concerned,” he said.

Other key players in the Commission include four other persons possessing experience and expertise in any one of the following areas; journalism, media policy and law, media regulation, business practice and finance, entertainment, education, advertising or related social issues.

“Otherwise if we in the media do not have any checks and balances then we will abuse our responsibility,” he concluded.

Mr Nyaundi also outlined to Capital News the steps taken when a complaint is made against the media.

“Once the council receives complaints from the public, the complaints commission receives the complaints and deliberates over them and calls a public hearing so everything is actually spelt out in the law,” he emphasised.

At the same time, the Media Council of Kenya has expressed fears that the ICT Bill, which is already before Parliament may interfere with media freedom.

Mr Waruru said the Bill gives the government overwhelming powers to regulate broadcast content and therefore there’s need to involve the media in making necessary amendments when the Bill gets to the committee stage in Parliament.

“The Media Council and the rest of the media fraternity are concerned about quite a number of aspects of the ICT Bill, but the principal concern is that it gives the government sufficient power to control content within the broadcasting environment,” Mr Waruru pointed out.

“We think that this is an affront to freedom and independence of the media,” he added.


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