Journalists kicked out of Kenyan Parliament

National Assembly Clerk Justin Bundi who marched into Parliament's media centre accompanied by parliamentary orderlies ordered for the computers and office furniture to be dismantled by the end of the day to facilitate space for more committee rooms/FILE

National Assembly Clerk Justin Bundi who marched into Parliament’s media centre accompanied by parliamentary orderlies ordered for the computers and office furniture to be dismantled by the end of the day to facilitate space for more committee rooms/FILE

NAIROBI, Kenya, Jun 5 – Journalists accredited to cover parliamentary proceedings were on Wednesday morning ordered to leave Parliament.

National Assembly Clerk Justin Bundi who marched into Parliament’s media centre accompanied by parliamentary orderlies ordered for the computers and office furniture to be dismantled by the end of the day to facilitate space for more committee rooms.

He told parliamentary journalists that “we cannot be creating residence for journalists in Parliament.”

“They cannot be seating here when we have no space for MPs,” said Bundi. “Let us see how we manage the process as we move on.”

He said coverage of the House proceedings will be on ‘invitation only.’

The media centre was established in 2009 under the leadership of ex-Speaker Kenneth Marende and former Clerk Patrick Gichohi with the assistance of the US government at a cost of over Sh2.5 million.

Kenya Parliamentary Journalist Association chairman Alphonce Shiundu said “it is a sad day for parliamentary journalism in the country.”

They cannot be seating here when we have no space for MPs,” said Bundi. “Let us see how we manage the process as we move on

He noted that “as the State House, (the President’s official residence) and Judiciary were thinking of allowing journalists on hitherto hallowed grounds, what the National Assembly does is convert the media centre into a committee room?”

He recalled that it took a long time and persistent effort for the House to let journalists have a place within Parliament for them to file stories that keep the public informed on the Legislature.

“Let’s not roll that back under the so-called digital regime,” said Shiundu in a statement.

“We hope more dialogue will take place within the structures of Parliament and have the decision reconsidered.

Shiundu added that Parliament and the media were the “society’s watchdog”, noting that unfettered coverage of the House proceedings is meant to “connect Parliament with the grassroots.”

“Kenyans need to listen to their leaders. Journalists need to tell Kenyans what their leaders in Parliament are up to.”

He appealed to the leadership of Parliament to reconsider the stand.

“We sympathise with the Clerk of the National Assembly and the rest of the parliamentary leadership about the inadequate space for committees.”

“Surely, Parliament can get sufficient space in other government buildings, such as Jogoo House, especially the wing that served as the office of former Vice President Kalonzo Musyoka, or the National Assembly can speak to the Senate, to use some of the rooms at the KICC for its meetings.”

Parliamentary journalists were relocated to the ‘new’ media centre located just next to Parliament’s debating chambers after the initial ultra modern sound proof one was demolished last year during the multibillion shilling refurbishment of the Old Chamber to create room for the Senate.

The Parliamentary Service Commission told the Budget and Appropriations Committee on Tuesday that MPs complained about the lack of offices, which has forced some to operate from hotel rooms and cars.

Senate Clerk Jeremiah Nyegenye said the central government has offered Parliament office space at the Kenyatta International Conference Centre and ministries previously hosted there ordered to vacate it.

Parliament will occupy all but three floors and the conference facilities at the landmark building in the centre of the capital, which will also be modified as necessary to host MPs’ offices.

LABAN WANAMBISI

Laban Wanambisi is a Parliamentary and Political reporter. He joined the Capital Newsteam in 2005. Since then, he has reported on many of the major news events over the years including his first major assignment covering the 2005 National Referendum on the Draft Constitution, and several other subsequent key national and international events.