NAIROBI, Kenya, Aug 20 – The Media Council of Kenya (MCK) has condemned the decision by the Senate Security Committee on National Security to bar journalists from covering its sitting with Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, Inspector General of Police Hillary Mutyambai and Director of Criminal Investigations George Kinoti following the arrest of three senators on Monday.
The three were summoned to explain circumstances which led to the arrest of Senators Steve Lelegwe (Marsabit), Christopher Lagat (Bomet) and Cleophas Malala (Kakamega) on Monday.
The media watchdog said the absence of media during the proceedings was unacceptable.
The Council noted the move set a worrying trend where journalists are barred from crucial proceedings of legislative bodies both at national and county levels, without justifiable reasons.
“Denying journalists access to proceedings of the Senate, without justifiable reasons as provided for by constitutional limitations, violates the principles of public participation, access to information and freedom of the media as provided for in Articles 118(1)(b), 34 and 35 of the Constitution of Kenya. Furthermore, such action also violates Section 243 of the Senate’s own Standing Orders,” MCK said in a statement released on Wednesday.
The council’s CEO, David Omwoyo further urged Senate Speaker Kenneth Lusaka to address the growing concerns by Parliament pres corps stating the trend by the Senator Yusuf Haji-led committee to bar reporters from its sittings violates freedom of the press, the principles of public participation and access to information as provided for in the Constitution of Kenya.
“The Senate should be the beacon of constitutionalism in protecting and providing a strong example for county governments in general and the county assemblies in particular. The actions of the Senate Committee fly in the face of this,” Omwoyo stated.
The reporters who had arrived at Senate on Tuesday said they had received media invites to the event but they were asked to leave by Garissa Senator Yussuf Haji who chairs the committee.
Law Society of Kenya President Nelson Havi termed the decision by the committee to kick out the media as “retrogressive and illegal.”