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Uhuru says he won’t sign draconian media bill

She insists that the trial must start on February 3, 2014/FILE

President Uhuru Kenyatta/FILE

KAJIADO, Kenya, Nov 2 – President Uhuru Kenyatta has assured the media fraternity that he will not sign the Kenya Information and Communication Bill, 2013 into law until all contentious issues have been 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.

Speaking in Mashuuru, Kajiado County, during a thanks giving ceremony for the election of Peris Pesi Tobiko as MP for Kajiado East constituency, the President said his government had no intention of gagging the media.

He however 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 National Assembly Majority Leader Adan Duale who was at the same function also pledged to engage media stakeholders over the contentious issues in the bill.

He said he would invite media practitioners to a meeting with the Parliamentary committee on Communication next week in a bid to address their grievances.

“We have no intention of gagging the media as this will be an affront to the freedom of expression which we all champion,” Duale said.

He however called on opposition-allied parliamentarians not to make fodder of the bill and instead focus on making their opinions count in the House.

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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 had 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.

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