NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 15 – Stakeholders in the media industry will present a memorandum to MPs containing amendments to contentious clauses in the proposed Security Laws (Amendment) Bill 2014.
In a statement read by Media Council of Kenya Chairman Peter Wakoli Monday, the stakeholders threatened to seek court action if the changes are not considered, since some of the proposals violate the Constitution which advocates for freedom of expression.
“Terrorism should not affect the importance of freedom of expression and of information in the media as one of the essential foundations of a democratic society. This freedom carries with it the right of the public to be informed on matters of public concern; the fight against terrorism should not be used as an excuse by states to restrict the freedom of the press,” read part of the statement.
They took issue with at least six proposals which according to them directly impact on freedom of expression.
“The proposed amendments introduce an illegal second layer of licensing procedures by requiring broadcasters to seek broadcasting permits from the National Intelligence Service(NIS) hence usurping the role of the Communications Authority of Kenya under Article 34(3) and the Media Council of Kenya’s self regulation role in section 34(5) of the Constitution,” the statement went on to indicate.
They further acknowledged the imperfect nature of every institution citing that the media had its own way of dealing with rogue journalists and media houses.
“We are talking about gory pictures or offensive material, and do you know how many of these pictures on a regular day do not find their way into the headlines of our newspapers because our reporters, journalists and editors are guided by the code of conduct and existing editorial policy guidelines,” said Sam Shollei, the Standard Group CEO.
They urged the government to strengthen grievance institutions to determine complaints and issue penalties on those who contradict the existing code of conduct rather that than stifling the operations and freedom of mass media.
The media stakeholders called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to stop using the fight against terrorism to gag the media who were simply playing their role of informing the public.
They at the same time reminded Kenyatta of his promise during last year’s World Press Freedom Day where he assured the media that the government would support them to be free, fair and responsible in conducting business.
“Indeed, Kenya has set an example for Africa in terms of non-Interference in media freedom. We will uphold this proud reputation,” said the President during the 2013 World Press Freedom Day.
“The media therefore expects President Kenyatta to keep his promise even in this opportune time that the temptation to further reign on the media would be enticing,” posed the stakeholders.
They also urged Parliament to defend the Constitution by not allowing laws that were unconstitutional to pass.
The proposed amendments to the Security Bill have elicited mixed reactions with many legislators particularly those from the Opposition calling it draconian.
The National Assembly will have a special sitting this Thursday to debate and probably consider amendments to the Bill.