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Church leaders join chorus against media Bill

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 14 – Church leaders on Sunday joined the chorus calling on President Mwai Kibaki not to assent to the controversial Kenya Communications (Amendment) Bill 2008.

National Churches of Kenya (NCCK) Secretary General Reverend Canon Peter Karanja said if the President makes it law then Kenyans would be denied their democratic space and urged the President to refer the Bill back to Parliament.

“If by chance the President was to do such an unwise thing it would only mean that Kenyans must figure out ways of pressing for this freedoms and engaging the political class towards reclaiming what would have been lost,” Reverend Karanja said.

“But I really appeal that the President listens to all us speaking and realise that it is in the interest of this country that political and democratic space as has been achieved is enhanced and not muzzled.”

The Bill was passed by Parliament on Wednesday last week.

Reverend Karanja said that the Bill should be referred back to Parliament to allow it delete Section 88 on the Kenya Communications Act (1998) which purports to give powers to the Ministers of Internal Security and Communications to deal with emergencies.

“This is because the powers that Section 88 purports, are already be dealt with under Section 85 of the Constitution and section 4 of the Preservation of Public Security Act are adequate and therefore Section 88 of the Kenya Communications Act should be deleted altogether,” he stated.

The umbrella body for churches in Kenya called for the empowerment of oversight bodies such as the Media Council of Kenya and the Film and Censorship Board to play their regulatory roles effectively.

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He further said that under the proposed Act the Communication Commission of Kenya is given censorship powers which would cover both content and programming of broadcasts.

He said: “The danger of potential arbitrary exercise of the powers however negates the clamour by Kenyans for serious checks and balances on the executive. We propose that such provision be integrated with the mandate of the censorship board and be exercised in consultations with the Communication Commission of Kenya.”

Meanwhile the National Civil Society Congress has petitioned the President not to assent to the Kenya Communications (Amendment) Bill 2008.

Spokesman Benji Ndolo said the Bill should be returned to Parliament for further consultations with media stakeholders.

“Assenting to the Bill will take Kenyan democracy years back. The offending media Bill should be returned with a memorandum specifying offending areas for amendments.”

Mr Ndolo stated that the civil society would mobilise Kenyans to pressurise the President into not signing the Bill. He said such action would be sustained until clear initiatives to address the issue were outlined.

Also of concern to the human rights group was the refusal by Members of Parliament (MP) to pay taxes. They said that the Kenya Revenue Authority to immediately and without fear tax appropriately the allowances of the legislators

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