NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 4 – The government together with the Media Owners Association have agreed to form a contact group consisting of all stakeholders to discuss the contentious Kenya Information Communications (Amendment) Bill 2013.
Cabinet Secretary for Information Communication and Technology Fred Matiang’i says the group will include all interested parties in a bid to widen room for dialogue to ensure the emerging issues are ironed out.
Addressing journalists on Monday, Matiang’i said the government will ensure all deliberations are in line with the Constitution.
“The contact group will begin discussion with us once we see the text of the Bill that was passed by Parliament, which we have not seen,” he said.
He however said that there was need, “to respect the fact that Parliament was acting within the law.”
The contact group will include representatives from the Media Owners Association, The Editors Guild, Kenya Union of Journalists and Kenya Correspondents Association.
President Uhuru Kenyatta’s advisor on the Constitution, Abdikadir Mohammed allayed fears on the Bill saying the President was fully committed to ensure the Constitution was followed to the letter.
He noted that all legislative processes end with presidential assent which has not been done in this case.
“The freedom of the media is guaranteed by the Constitution, which is supreme. It is not guaranteed by anybody or institution,” he noted.
He said the President was going to undertake his constitutional mandate by ensuring all issues raised were settled in as per the law.
“The President will exercise his constitutional duty to safeguard the Constitution,” he pointed out.
The Bill has been termed as draconian and is set to interfere with the media freedom in the country if assented into law.
The President has assured the media fraternity that he will not sign it until all contentious issues have been ironed out.
He said it would be an abuse of his powers to sign a law that contravenes the Constitution and asked the media not to panic over the fact that the Bill passed through Parliament.
“I shall look at the Bill once it is forwarded to me with a view to identifying and addressing possible grey areas to ensure the new media law conforms to the Constitution,” he said.
Coalition for Reforms and Democracy leader Raila Odinga also described the passage of the Bill as an attempt to return Kenya to the, “dark days,” while former Deputy Prime Minister Musalia Mudavadi described it as an affront to the gains Kenya has made over the years.
A number of provisions in the bill have been queried including the hefty fines that would be levied on media practitioners should President Kenyatta assent to the bill.
Another bone of contention is the Communications and Multimedia Appeals Tribunal whose sweeping powers would include dictating what the media can or cannot disseminate to the public.