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KNCHR to present media case to President

NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 13 – A day after media personalities were manhandled during Jamuhuri Day celebrations, the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR) has said it would make a formal advisory to the President not to assent to the now controversial Kenya Communications (Amendment) Bill of 2008.

Vice chairman Hassan Omar told journalists on Saturday that the Commission had taken notice of the mood of the country and was preparing to give a comprehensive position on the Bill, which has attracted chorused criticism.

“I believe it’s not too late to send an advisory to the President informing him of his obligation to defend the constitution of this republic,” Mr Omar said adding that the Bill seeks to deny Kenyans their freedom of expression.

Mr Omar added that the Bill largely threatened the freedom of expression not only for the media but for Kenyans as a whole.

The Vice Chairman however said that should the Bill be enacted, the rights body would consult with players in the media industry before deciding on the most appropriate course of action.

“If he were to assent into it, we would not allow our country to be plunged into darkness because we are Kenyans first and Commissioners second. We would join other Kenyans in bearing the necessary pressure to ensure that these gains are not reversed,” he said.

These remarks come as pressure piled on President Mwai Kibaki not to assent to the Bill which has largely been viewed as retrogressive.

Media to blame

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On the other hand, veteran politician Martin Shikuku told Capital News on Saturday that the media was to blame for its own woes, warning that the Fourth Estate was on the verge of ‘a ruinous future’ if responsibility would not be restored.

“I would only tell the press to practice investigative journalism and dig out things and expose them; but you can only do this after you have changed your attitude of being given something before you publish what somebody has said,” Mr Shikuku advised.

He however decried Friday’s incident during the Jamuhuri Day celebrations at Nyayo stadium where a section of media personalities protesting the Bill were arrested and detained.

He said that the brutal act relegates the democratic gains made in Kenya over the years.

“I know where we came from with the media and where we have reached. What these people have done is to take us back to where we come from,” he said.

Troublesome activist hospitalised

Meanwhile, an activist who was on Friday roughed up by security officers after shouting at President Mwai Kibaki was on Saturday admitted to Nairobi Women’s Hospital after allegedly sustaining serious injuries in the hands of police.

Frederick Odhiambo is set to spend at least two days in the hospital according to human rights lawyer Harun Ndubi who spearheaded his release for medical attention.

“He’s got chest pains and he is in great pain because his abdomen and the lower abdomen were trampled upon by the security officers who arrested him,” Mr Ndubi told reporters outside the hospital.

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