, NAIROBI, Kenya, Sept 4 – News Editors, parliamentary journalists and the Commission for the Implementation of the Constitution (CIC) have petitioned the National Assembly to expunge offensive clauses in the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Bill 2014 that bars media from scrutinising the business of the House.
Editors Guild Chairman Linus Kakai questioned the motive behind Parliament’s renewed move to gag the media, adding that Eldas MP Adan Keynan who sponsored the Bill cannot stop progression of the media.
Kaikai warned that the Bill would take Kenya way back to 1982 when the National Assembly in less than one hour, debated and passed a Bill that amended the former independence Constitution and declared Kenya a de jure one party State.
“Since Parliament is susceptible to mischief, Kenyans, through the Constitution that they enacted and gave to themselves cannot allow the enactment of a law that has the potential of allowing mischief of skulk through the net of judicial vigilance in the name of orderly and effective discharge of the business of Parliament,” he said.
Kenya Parliamentary Journalists Association (KPJA) Chairperson Caroline Wafula noted that the amendment by Keynan who is serving his third term in the National Assembly was unnecessary because the Constitution and the House Standing Orders cited national security interests as the only justification for barring the media and the public from House proceedings.
They say the Bill is a precursor to parliamentary dictatorship and an attempt to run away from accountability.
At the same time, CIC released an advisory opinion urging the House to delete the provisions because they generally limit certain rights, without qualifying the justification, nature and extent of the limitation as required by Article 24 of the Constitution.
Vice-chairperson Elizabeth Muli further advised the deletion of Clauses 23 to 25 which touch on unauthorised publications and broadcasting proceedings saying the proposed limitations of the right to access to information and freedom of the media are unjustifiable in terms of allowing access to the public and media so as to facilitate public participation and involvement in parliamentary affairs.
“Legislation cannot take away rights enshrined in the Constitution without justification of the same as required by Article 24 of the Constitution. It cannot take away fundamental rights and the role of the court,” said Muli in an advisory.
Other provisions in the Bill provide for privileges and immunity of members from legal proceedings and freedom from arrest for civil debt during a session of Parliament.
Witnesses who are summoned to appear before a committee, but fail to do so, shall be fined up to Sh500,000.
The Parliamentary Powers and Privileges (Amendment) Bill 2014 is currently before the National Assembly.
The Media Council of Kenya and the Media Owners Association has also threatened to move to court to oppose the bill, that it says aims to curtail the hard earned media freedom.