, NAIROBI, Kenya Dec 3 – Journalists on Tuesday held peaceful protests on the streets of Nairobi over the controversial Kenya Information and Communications Amendment (KICA) Bill.
The members of the Fourth Estate who converged at the Nation Centre marched to Harambee Avenue where they handed petitions to the Office of the President and his Deputy.
In the petition signed by Editors’ Guild officials, journalists appealed to MPs to shoot down the oppressive Bill, emphasising that the matter is of national importance.
Editors Guild Vice Chairman David Ohito explained that the memorandum presented by President Uhuru Kenyatta as amendments to the KICA Bill only escalated issues.
“We have gathered here because the media is under attack through two Bills that have been drafted. Consultations were done and though we demanded that the input from the stakeholders be considered our pleas were ignored,” he said.
“We are viciously going to fight back no matter what it takes,” explained a perturbed Ohito.
Photojournalist and political activist Boniface Mwangi who was part of the demonstration accused Parliament of using the Bill to gag the media and deprive them of their constitutional rights.
“We have the Media Council to regulate us and that is enough because we are responsible, unlike some politicians who incite people to engage in war. The President should not to pass that Bill as it is an affront to democracy but we are a bit sceptical because it seems like players in government are hell-bent on passing it,” he said.
In the event that they disagree with the Head of State, the legislators will require a two-thirds majority vote to overturn the presidential veto and force the Bill to automatically become law.
President Kenyatta last week declined to sign the controversial KICA Bill and instead returned it to the National Assembly with recommended changes.
In declining to sign the bill, Kenyatta said that many provisions of the Bill go against the constitutional requirement that the tribunal proposed should be independent of commercial, political and government interests.
Clause 37 proposes the introduction of a new section 102 (3) which provides for the establishment of the Communication and Multimedia Appeals Tribunal. Subsection (3) sets out the membership of the selection panel responsible for appointing members of the tribunal.
The President said the membership of the selection panel as set out under the proposed provision is drawn exclusively from media players and the government. This, he said, is against the Constitution that says the tribunal should be free of media, commercial and Government interests.
On the removal of members of the tribunal, the President said subjecting them to a process that is steered by a panel comprising media and government would “render the process partial and lacking in independence”.
He also took issue with the provision for the complaints the Tribunal may receive. President Kenyatta said the jurisdiction of the tribunal is confined to complaints relating to the media enterprises and journalists.
“It does not deal with any matters relating to telecommunications, courier or postal services, information, communication and technology and other matters which fall within the ambit of the Act,” he said.
Several meetings have been called, the latest one being between the National Assembly’s Energy and Communications Committee and the Media Council of Kenya officials, Media Owners Association, the Kenya Editors’ Guild and Kenya Correspondents Association to try and build consensus on the Media Council Bill.
The MPs argued that the clauses contained in the KICA Bill were not their creation but were brought in during consultations with the media stakeholders while the draft Bills the media fraternity forwarded to Parliament were adversely altered between the Ministry of ICT and Attorney General’s chambers to the shock of many.