NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 16 – The Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) on Friday reprimanded its MPs who voted in favour of offensive clauses in the Powers and Privileges Bill 2015, saying they went against the agreed position.
The coalition did not however say if disciplinary action will be taken against them.
CORD Management Committee Co-Chairmen Johnson Muthama and James Orengo said they led a Parliamentary Group (PG) meeting which resolved to oppose proposals seeking to gag media’s reportage of Parliament and also directed the Bill’s sponsor, Adan Keynan, to withdraw the offensive sections.
“It is true… there were signs that there were some members of CORD could support this Bill but when we met at our PG, a firm stand was taken to reject this Bill and it stands rejected,” said Senator Muthama (Machakos County)
ODM lawmakers Nicholas Gumbo (Rarieda), Ferdinand Wanyonyi (Kwanza) and Kamoti Mwamkale (Rabai) are among those who voted down proposals to delete the draconian clauses.
Muthama and Orengo said a free media is crucial to the growth of a prosperous democracy and explained that the Bill should not even have been allowed to go through the First Reading with the offensive clauses.
Senator Orengo (Siaya) termed Wednesday’s proceeding in the National Assembly as unfortunate but hoped the Lower House will remove the offensive clauses when the Bill is re-tabled.
“The worst thing that can happen to our democracy is the gagging of our media. The media is also good for our own individual satisfaction and achievement. Because self-expression is part of my individuality, if I cannot express myself, there is nothing that can distinguish James Orengo from an elephant in the Tsavo,” he said.
The Bill was supposed to go through the Third Reading on Thursday but House Leaders Aden Duale (Jubilee Coalition) and Jakoyo Midiwo (CORD) requested for deferment of the vote.
A Third Reading is the stage in a legislative process at which a bill is read with all amendments and given final approval.
The leaders appear to have caved in to pressure and uproar by the media fraternity which condemned the passing of article 34 and 35 of the bill which created heavy penalties for journalist for publishing negative information about Parliament.
The MPs first voted to outlaw and punish any negative reporting against Parliament with a Sh500,000 maximum fine or a two-year jail term. The furious lawmakers introduced an offence called “defamation of Parliament” that prohibits any “person” from speaking words that “are defamatory to Parliament, its committees or proceedings.”
“We are allowing this House to be a subject of unnecessary mob-justice. Are we just going to allow false and scandalous information to be written about us just because we are members of Parliament?” said Gumbo (Rarieda) who led the onslaught on media gagging.
Keynan had promised to delete the offensive clauses that were likely to gag the media, but Wednesday he had no numbers. Duale urged the MPs to reject the offensive clauses but he too had no numbers.
“This amendment is scandalous, it is serious. We can’t accept it. How do you make a person to commit a crime by publishing parliamentary reports? How? We represent the people of Kenya. If you chose to be a public servant an MP, you have to be ready for public scrutiny; if you don’t want to be criticized you will only survive if you stick with your wife and your children in your House. If you chose public service, you have to be ready for consequences,” said Duale.
The National Assembly on Thursday beat a hasty retreat on the draconian clauses of the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Bill, 2015 in what saw Speaker Justin Muturi defer voting on the bill to allow for more consultation on it provisions key among them those seeking to gag the media.
“It will be fair to accommodate the views advanced by members. It is important to appreciate freedom of the media in Article 34 of the Constitution that the State shall not exercise control of on media. This House should give sufficient time to consider these issues,” Muturi said.