Kenya: Bill to Gag Media Wins MPs Backing

From Kenya’s Daily Nation

Photo:  Godfrey

Another provision seen as a hindrance to media freedom is the requirement for approval by the speaker or chairman of a committee before proceedings are broadcast (file photo).

A Bill that seeks to curtail the media from reporting Parliamentary proceedings got support from most MPs on Wednesday.

Among the offending clauses seen as a setback to media freedom and the right to information is the one seeking fines of Sh500,000 or a two-year jail term or both, for anyone “who publishes false or scandalous libel on Parliament, its committees or proceedings”.

The Bill also bars journalists from “speaking words defamatory of Parliament, its committees or its proceedings”.

Another provision seen as draconian and a hindrance to media freedom, is the requirement for approval by the speaker or chairman of a committee before proceedings are broadcast.

The Bill also says media freedom would be limited for purposes of “facilitating the immunity of the Houses and committees and for facilitating freedom of speech and debate.”

On Wednesday, the mover, Mr Adan Keynan (Eldas), said he would seek amendments to the offending clauses, but did not give an undertaking.

“We have received three memorandums from media owners, practitioners and the Parliamentary Reporters Association expressing concerns about clauses they want amended. We will consider their views where necessary,” he said.

IT WASN’T ME

Mr Keynan also sought to deflect some of the criticism of the Bill by saying it came from the Parliamentary Service Commission.

Although most MPs support the Bill, some said they would oppose it as it violated media freedom, access to information and public participation.

The Bill also seeks a fine of Sh200,000 or six month jail for those who fail to honour parliamentary summonses. MPs who breach House privileges also face fines of up to Sh500,000.

Leader of Majority Aden Duale said he would vote against the Bill.

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