NAIROBI, Kenya, Nov 5 – Members of the National Assembly have accused the media of misleading the public on the contents of the Kenya Information Communications (Amendment) 2013 Bill which is currently awaiting presidential assent to become law.
Information and Communication Committee Chairman Jamleck Kamau and Leader of Majority Coalition Aden Duale told the House that the Communications and Multimedia Appeals Tribunal which they equated to the Federal Communication Commission in USA was a proposal of the Media Owners Association.
Kamau said the Bill was clean because it will allow media practitioners to have a say in the formation of the tribunal and urged President Uhuru Kenyatta to sign it into law.
“We are saying that the media has freedoms but these freedoms must be to such an extent whereby if it crosses it, should not jeopardize the freedoms of other people. This nation belongs to all of us and it must be protected by all of us,” Kamau said. “Mr Speaker let us not politicise this issue of the media bill.”
“Parliament has a role under the Constitution, which nobody can deny us our role,” Duale said as he explained that the Bill was among key legislations that are required to be in place by this December by the Constitution.
Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo supported his chairman but called for dialogue among all the stakeholders concerned to ensure the amended law is re-tabled in Parliament for deliberation so that there can be a free and fair environment for the media to operate without intimidation.
“Instead of subjecting Parliament to mob justice, come let us reason together. Don’t make it look as if somebody has declared war on the media; we need the media,” stated Gumbo.
Deputy Minority Whip Chris Wamalwa urged the President to send the Bill back to Parliament so that the contentious clauses can be re-looked.
Mwingi North MP Munuve Mati told the House Information, Communications and Technology Secretary Fred Matiang’i had written to the committee disowning a statement he made to the media that he was kept in the dark on contents of the contentious Bill.
National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi called for soberness in the discussions concerning the draconian Bill which was passed by the National Assembly saying he will guide the House on the way forward should the President refer the law back to the House.
The Bill has been roundly condemned with those opposed to the legislation arguing that intends to gag the media.
President Kenyatta and Deputy President William Ruto have expressed willingness to dialogue with the media before the bill is enacted.
The Bill which now awaits presidential assent for it to become law will herald strict controls on radio and television broadcasts, with stations obliged to ensure that 45 percent of programme content and advertising is locally-made.
Journalists and media houses will be slapped with huge fines for violating a code of conduct. It will also see the creation of a powerful Communications and Multimedia Appeals Tribunal to address media complaints as opposed to the current situation where grievances are addressed through the Media Council of Kenya.