NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 3 – Deputy President William Ruto has weighed in on the controversial media bill recently passed by Parliament reiterating that the government has no intention of muzzling the press by assenting to a draconian media bill.
As one of his first orders of business since returning to the country on Sunday morning, he assured the media that the government will re-examine the Kenya Information and Communications Amendment Bill passed by Parliament on Thursday with a view to addressing the concerns raised by them.
“The government has a constitutional responsibility to uphold all freedoms in the country including freedom of the press and will therefore not be party to any action that will emasculate those freedoms,” Ruto said.
He went on to state that the Jubilee government, contrary to what their critics said, welcomed an independent press that kept the government on their toes and helped guard against corruption.
“The media should not be intimidated, indeed the best way to support the government is to criticise it where it goes wrong,” he said.
Ruto however urged the media to exercise their freedoms responsibly due to the immense power they wield.
“The media had the biggest authority on what goes to the public through the print and electronic media,” he explained.
Ruto’s sentiments echoed those of President Uhuru Kenyatta who on Saturday said much the same thing assuring the fourth estate that he would not sign the bill until the contentious issues are ironed out.
He said it would be an abuse of his powers to sign a bill that contravenes the Constitution into law 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.
And as Ruto did on Sunday, he reminded the fourth estate that with great power comes great responsibility and urged them to exercise their freedom in a professional, balanced and fair manner.
The passage of the contentious bill on Thursday was a followed by a furore not only from the opposition and the media itself but by church groups and human rights activists as well.
Opposition Leader Raila Odinga described the passage of the Bill as an attempt to return Kenya to the, “dark days,” while former Deputy President Musalia Mudavadi described it as an affront to the gains Kenya has made over the years.
A number of provisions in the Bill have raised the red flag including the hefty fines that would be levied onto 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 and what not the media can share with the public.
Ruto reasserted the Jubilee government’s commitment to the freedom of the press at a church service held at the Jesus Winners Ministry church in Roysambu where he officiated a fundraising.