All is not lost on Media Bill, says Matiang’i

Matiang'i pledged to meet with Attorney General Githu Muigai and the chairman of the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution Charles Nyachae to look into grievances being raised in the Bill/FILE

Matiang’i pledged to meet with Attorney General Githu Muigai and the chairman of the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution Charles Nyachae to look into grievances being raised in the Bill/FILE

NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 1 – Information, Communication and Technology Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i says there is still room for dialogue to ensure the emerging issues in the Media Bill are ironed out.

He said there was no cause for alarm over the Bill which now awaits the President’s assent into law after it was approved by the National Assembly on Thursday.

Matiang’i pledged to meet with Attorney General Githu Muigai and the chairman of the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution Charles Nyachae to look into grievances being raised in the Bill.

“The powers of the legislative arm of government are unfettered; you cannot control Parliament on how they deal with legislation,” he said. “Now that Parliament has passed the legislation, we need to ask if the room for dialogue is closed – I don’t think it is.”

“Freedom of the press is not under attack in Kenya,” added Matiang’i.

His sentiments came as media practitioners and rights activists castigated the passage of the Media Bill saying it would impede a free media and entrench judicial control of the press if adopted as law.

Media Owners Association Chairman Kiprono Kittony said the Bill as approved by the National Assembly has clawed back on the gains made by the media in Kenya which is considered a leader in the region.

“To create an authority that is government controlled to determine all matters of content and to impose draconian fines of up to Sh20 million for media houses and Sh1 million for journalists with a possibility of de-registration for life is an attempt to muzzle the media,” Kiprono said.

The Bill proposes the establishment of the Communications and Multimedia Appeals Tribunal to address media complaints as opposed to the current situation where grievances are addressed through the Media Council of Kenya.

A journalist found to have violated any information-related law will be liable to pay a fine of over Sh1 million with the affected media house paying Sh20 million. The tribunal will have the power to recommend the suspension or deregistration of a journalist involved in any violation.

Capital Group Managing Director Cyrus Kamau said the media should be allowed to practice self-regulation.

“We want to be responsible Kenyans but the moment the Secretary for Information has powers to appoint that tribunal it will never be free,” he stated.

“They are retrogressive, dictatorial and they take this country back to the political Stone Age. We negotiated with these MPs and they have shown singular bad faith. We will carry this battle to the next stage and fight every attempt to deny the media of this country freedom,” said Media Council of Kenya Chairman Joseph Odindo.

Lawyer Ahmednasir Abdullahi through his Nairobi Law Monthly publication has vowed to challenge the constitutionality of the law in court if President Uhuru Kenyatta signs it.

“Nairobi Law Monthly magazine gives notice that in the unlikely event that H.E. Uhuru Kenyatta assents to the media Bill it will challenge its constitutionality,” Abdullahi tweeted.

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.

  • Gathii

    Why all the hullabaloo? The media’s main issue with the bill is the hefty penalties for non compliance with the code of conduct. If they were responsible citizens, then compliance with the laws and the code of conduct should not be an issue. There are no professions that are not regulated (ok, maybe criminal activities are not) and the Media was given a chance of self regulation but have so far failed miserably. We need to end impunity in the Kenya, media included so that all citizens obey the laws and respect the rights of others.
    Media was at the forefront of supporting the Independent Police Oversight Authority which has oversight mandate over the police. The arguments that the members of the IPOA should be civilians to ensure they are independent and effective in executing their mandate also applies to the media.
    The 2007/8 PEV and the Westgate siege taught us lessons that an unregulated media can turn Kenyans against each other and inform the enemy of progress made by our security forces in dealing with external threats. This cannot and should not be allowed to continue if we value our security.
    I have one piece of advise for the media. If they feel the fines are too hefty, then they should comply with the law and the code of conduct. Just the same way the rest of Kenyans are complying with the new traffic laws to avoid the hefty fines!

    • Polkot

      You wrote all these because of freedom of expression. Information is paramount for security. Those in charge of sensitive ‘secretes’ are allowed to say ‘no comment’. If they open their mouths to the press, the press will say it as it is or analyse it as they think. You, the readers and listeners, can deny unscrupulous press by simply telling them so and not buying their products. The MPs are making unscrupulous law because they enjoy the same freedom of expression they are now trying to gag.

      • Gathii

        All freedoms come with responsibility that’s why there is no absolute freedom. One has to respect the rights of others and if one cannot do that then the law applies. You seem to have totally misunderstood the bill.
        Media has no issue with the code of conduct, they are only complaining of the fines that will be imposed for breach of the code of conduct. This clearly shows they have absolutely no intention of abiding by the code of conduct. If they did, the fines would not be an issue.

  • golditberg

    Amarillo,, watu wa kuangalia ni Greenwald,, Jeremy Scahill,, na Laura Poitras,,. Katika kazi ya kupasha habari, hawa watu wamefanya kazi bila uwoga na wanasaidia nchi zao. Kenya pia inahitaji wanahabari,, wasio na uwoga

  • CHRIS OJOW WUOD UGENYA

    WHO IS MEDIA COUNCIL ? THEY CARE LESS FOR THE WELFARE OF JOURNALISTS PURPORTING TO CHECK ETHICS YET THEY ORG ANISE TWO DAYS WORKSHOP WITHIN THE COUNTRY STEAL MONEY AND FOOL PEOPLE , HOW MANY JOURNALISTS HAVE THEY SPONSORED FOR DIPLOMAS , MASTERS OR DEGREE? , THE GOVERNMENT MUST INVESTIGATE THE EXPENDITURE OF MEDIA COUNCIL OR STOP FUNDING THEM , (KUJ) KENYA UNION OF JOURNALISTS IS THE ONLY BODY THAT’S FIGHT FOR THE RIGHT AND WELFARE OF JOURNALISTS WHEN MEDIA OWNERS ARE PAYING JOURNALIST LIKE BAR MAIDS.