, NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 3 – The government is in the process of harmonising all the laws governing the media to bring them at par with the dictates of the new Constitution and facilitate responsible journalism.
Speaking during a breakfast meeting in Nairobi on Wednesday, Information and Communication Director Ezekiel Mutua said the proposals would be unveiled next week.
He added that the laws would see journalists vetted for their positions and also bring sanity to the industry by holding practitioners liable for what they disseminate to the public.
“Some of the things that are taking place cannot be sanctioned by any decent society including issues that border on sexuality and invasion of people’s privacy. If you want to say who was caught sleeping with whose wife, I think a regulation needs to come in to determine how far you can go to extract information from people,” he said.
The new laws will contain provisions in the Media Act, the Kenya Communications Amendments Act and the Kenya Broadcasting Act.
Mr Mutua explained that the industry’s players and the government would be involved in the consultations before the final draft was delivered.
“We already have experts within the ministry who are dealing with this together with the drafters and the State Law Office who are giving us advice. We will give our proposal to the stakeholders so that we also get their views,” explained Mr Mutua.
He also refuted claims that the laws were an attempt by the government to muzzle the press.
“There’s always that fear when we try to bring in regulation. It is confused with control and gagging the media. In fact other people perceive that to mean that in the end it might have a bearing on press freedom and expression in general,” he said.
Mr Mutua also explained that the laws will govern the manner in which the media broadcasts and reports the 2012 general elections.
“I can tell you the real transition will be in 2012. If you thought transiting from the KANU regime was it, you are wrong because the politics of 2012 could come with their own dynamics that must be guarded from this point in time,” he said.
Mr Mutua further said that the government would revoke broadcast frequencies that had been acquired by individuals but remained idle for a significant period of time. This would also include frequencies that were being used to channel hate speech.
“I know the Communications Commission of Kenya has recalled a lot of licences since February this year. We do know of one individual who has 60-something licences that are not being used,” he claimed.
He spoke as the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) launched a set of guidelines for the electronic media aimed at fostering national unity and averting possible ethnical flare-ups.
The Commission’s vice chairperson Mary Onyango said members of the Fourth Estate had a big responsibility in preventing a repeat of the 2008 post-poll violence.
“Everybody wants to enjoy themselves because everybody wants to have a good laugh. But is it possible for us as Kenyans to use this platforms to be able to make people come together instead of using it to push people apart?” she asked.
The NCIC further asked the media not to broadcast material that was likely to stir negative ethnical stereotypes.
Kenya Editors’ Guild Secretary Rosemary Okello also urged the media to unify Kenyans and help bring cohesion while still upholding the freedom of information spirit.
“We should help this country move forward. The question is how do we take this country to the next level without amidst this plethora of hate speech and negative ethnicity?” she quipped.