Kenya media says No to govt talks

January 6, 2009 12:00 am

, NAIROBI, Kenya, Jan 6 – The Media Owners Association and the Editors Guild on Tuesday said they would snub calls by the government for dialogue on the contentious sections of the controversial Kenya Communications Amendment Act 2008.

The Media Owners Association (MOA) arrived at the decision after a meeting to map a way out of the dilemma that the new law presents to free speech and press freedom.

Speaking during a press conference, the MOA Chairman Linus Gitahi said that previous meetings with the government had been fruitless and that the one called by Information Minister Samuel Poghisio and scheduled for Monday would not have any effect.

“We have held many meetings with the ministry and as we held those meetings, the Bill continued to move from one stage to the other and we have not seen any fruitful outcome,” Mr Gitahi stated.

He further stressed that they would not attend talks on the controversial law unless its implementation was suspended.

“We want to throw a challenge to the Minister; if indeed (he is) genuine about holding this meeting, we would then want a public proclamation about suspending the operationalisation of this Act,” he emphasised.

Mr Gitahi however stated MOA’s commitment to participate in a workshop where views from both sides will be considered and a way forward charted out.

“What however we are committed to is to look at a bi-partisan approach through having a workshop with members of Parliament so that we can flush out the issues that we all have and give opportunity when Parliament reconvenes to have amendments that we feel are necessary to be enacted,” he explained.

Secretary of the Editors Guild David Makali said they were considering legal action to have the Kenya Communications Amendment Act 2008 suspended.

“The Editors forum is considering and exploring the option of taking this Act to court to ask for that Act to stay or to be suspended pending the determination of whether infact it is not unconstitutional,” Mr. Makali said.

On his part, Chairman Macharia Gaitho pointed out that the Act ignored the role of other statutory organs which were responsible for issues to do with standards and complaints about the media.

They (statutory organs) are there by law and they are well established,” he said adding that they needed time to be able to function properly.

Mr Gaitho said it was disturbing that under the Act, the control of all such organs was put in the hands of the Minister for Information.

“When these things are put under the ambit of the Minister, they are put in a way that is not regulated,” he said.

The meeting with the government was due on Monday at the invitation of Information Minister Samuel Poghisio.

Mr Poghisio had made an appeal for dialogue as more political parties beat a hasty retreat from the new law they passed.

The Orange Democratic Movement (ODM) announced that it would sponsor amendments to the controversial Communications Act.

Cabinet Minister Otieno Kajwang told a news conference at Parliament building that ODM was against the Act as it was a threat to press freedom promising to bring amendments as soon as Parliament reconvenes.

“We may have to bring certain amendments to the House, if they cannot be brought by the Cabinet, this is a matter we will fight as a political party, but this matter will definitely be in the House as soon as it resumes,” he said.

He said the provision that allowed the Internal Security and the Communication and Information Ministers to determine media content was a motive of personal interests.
“The Ministers have interests, some personal, political or power relations interests and if you allow them to regulate the media, then there is a possibility that power maybe abused,” he noted.

The Mbita MP said regulating the media was important but the question was who should regulate the industry without personal interests.

On Monday, the Party of National Unity coalition also said it was ready to support amendments that would be tabled by the media fraternity to ensure the freedom of the press was protected.


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