NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 15 – Six journalists who were arrested for protesting the controversial Kenya Communication (Amendment) Bill were on Monday charged at a Kibera court with unlawful assembly.
Carol Wandia, Francis Othure, Andrew Wanyonyi, Peterson Mwangi, Jack Otieno and Stafford Ondengo were arraigned before Kibera Chief Magistrate Maureen Odero moments after they allegedly committed the offence.
They were arrested at Uhuru Park by police officers who had lobbed teargas at a group of demonstrators on Parliament road, as they marched towards Harambee House in a bid to present a petition at President Mwai Kibaki’s office.
They all denied the charge and were each released on a Sh15,000 cash bail, pending hearing of their case on January 9.
Their arrests came as members of the civil society continued to exert pressure on President Kibaki not to assent to the Bill saying it gags the media.
The Bill gives the government authority to close down and dismantle media outlets by declaring a state of emergency or citing security concerns.
It also bestows the Minister for Information with undue influence over media content through the government-appointed Communications Commission of Kenya.
Several rights groups have urged the President not to assent to the Bill saying it would relegate the country into the dark days and cut into the democratic space that has been achieved over the past decades.
Kenya National Commission on Human Rights said on Monday that it was pushing for a mandatory bail for people held for over the stipulated 24 hours in police custody without being charged in court.
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Raila Odinga said on Monday that he would be holding discussions with President Kibaki over the Bill that was passed by Parliament last week.
Mr Odinga told the Media Owners Association (MOA) that he would request the President to allow further consultations on the Bill before he assents to it.
MOA members handed him a petition to the Head of State against the Bill.