NAIROBI, Kenya Dec 16 – The Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) is set to hold discussions with the Kenya Revenue Authority to allow its officials pay taxes on their allowances.,
The Commissioners do not currently pay taxes but have expressed willingness to do so.
The commission’s chairperson Florence Jaoko further called on President Mwai Kibaki and Prime Minister Raila Odinga to exercise leadership by appealing to Kenya’s lawmakers to make amendments to the Finance Bill to enable MPs pay taxes.
“The Cabinet of 40 Ministers and 52 assistant ministers should lead from the front by agreeing to pay taxes,” Ms Jaoko said.
She pointed out that the Bill would ensure that every Kenyan pays taxes regardless of position or level of education.
She was speaking during a press conference where she also urged President Kibaki not to assent to the Kenya Communications (Amendment) Bill in its current form due to its apparent onslaught on media freedom.
She went ahead and decried the act of brutality on journalists on Monday as they held peaceful demonstrations in Nairobi to protest at the passage of the law, popularly known as the ICT Bill.
She stated that the arbitrary arrest of journalists and members of the civil society for simply expressing their dissatisfaction with the State should not be an excuse by the government to clamp down on them.
“The commission takes exception to the high-handed and dictatorial manner in which the police have been dispersing peaceful demonstrators as they exercise their fundamental rights to assemble and petition government,” she said.
She alluded to the fact that ordinary members of the public had expressed fears regarding the Bill and stated that it should be reason enough for members of the grand coalition to open up and agree to further consultations.
“What message is the government through the arbitrary arrests sending to the media industry and consumers of information and others interested in investing in the sector?” she asked.
She acknowledged the need for comprehensive legislation on each specific aspects of the media sector and harmonisation of the same due to challenges brought by technological advancement.
In terms of the human rights implications in the Kenya Communications (Amendment) Bill 2008, the KNCHR chairperson reiterated that the proposals for regulation would have a great impact on the freedom of expression, opinion, information, privacy, security as well as the freedom of the press.
She further called on the Media Council of Kenya to take measures meant to regulate the industry and foster responsible journalism.
“This is not to say that the media should not be held responsible for its actions that are against public interest. They should also listen to Kenyans who feel aggrieved by the media. The Media Council of Kenya should be bold enough to take action against irresponsible journalism,” she said.
She called on the President to reject the Bill and send it back to Parliament for necessary amendment.