News / Africa

Kenyan Journalists Voice Opposition to Harsh Media Bill

Pamela Dockins
Kenyan media organizations are urging President Uhuru Kenyatta to veto a bill that could sharply limit press freedom.  The measure passed by parliament on Thursday would make journalists subject to restrictions and large fines.

The Kenyan parliament has passed a bill that would create a Communications and Multimedia Appeals Tribunal.

The government tribunal would have the power to impose fines of up to $240,000 on news organizations that violate its code of conduct for journalism practices.  The tribunal could also slap individual reporters with fines of more than $10,000 for violating its rules.

The bill cleared parliament late Thursday, at a time when only a small number of lawmakers were on hand to vote.

Linus Gitahi is CEO of the Nation Media Group, whose brands include The Daily Nation, Kenya's largest newspaper.

Gitahi says his group will fight the measure in court because the proposed tribunal would be unconstitutional.

"The constitution is very clear, that people who are going to be involved in the regulation of the media are people who are free of political and commercial interests," said Gitahi.

Gitahi also says the proposal would set up a quasi-government organization that would regulate the media.

"If you have a quasi-government organization regulating you or hovering over the journalists and media houses with huge penalties that they can levy - what that means in one sentence is you can not cover government negatively.  Now, if you can not cover government negatively, that means that government has a free ticket to do what they want," he said.

Some journalists have voiced concern that the measure may have been prompted by Kenyan press coverage of the September terrorist attack at Nairobi's Westgate Mall.

Some government officials criticized the coverage, including the release of video that showed security forces apparently looting items from a mall store.

Also, local news organizations said some of the security personnel who died in the mall siege were killed by friendly fire.

Tom Rhodes is the East Africa representative for the Committee to Project Journalists.

He says the it appears there is a link between the mall attack and parliament's measure.

"It appears that since the Kenyan press did such a good job of investigating the Westgate Mall attack that the government seems to be sort of reactive and is trying to push through this harsh bill," said Rhodes.

Rhodes says if the bill becomes law, it could inspire similar types of laws in other east African countries.

"My fear is that if press freedom conditions deteriorate - and they will underneath this bill in Kenya - it will have a domino effect with the other countries in east Africa and we will see sort of deteriorating conditions across the region," he said.

There has been no word on whether President Uhuru Kenyatta will sign the media tribunal measure into law.

You May Like

EU Court Fines Poland for Hosting CIA 'Black Sites'

Ruling is first time a court has acknowledged suspects were held and tortured at the sites, under US program launched following the 9/11 terrorist attacks More

Migrant Issues Close to Home Spur Groups to Take Action

Groups placing water, food in the desert, or aiding detainees after release, have one common goal: no more deaths of migrants crossing illegally into the US More

Video At AIDS Conference, Prevention Pill Stirs Excitement

Truveda shows promise, spurring debate over access and other approaches More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnelsi
X
July 24, 2014 4:42 AM
The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video Israel Targets Gaza Supply Tunnels

The Israeli military has launched a ground operation in Gaza to destroy the myriad tunnels that may have been used to smuggle weapons to Hamas. VOA's Zlatica Hoke reports that could mean more hardship for the people of Gaza, who obtain some of their essential supplies through these underground passages
Video

Video MH17's 'Black Boxes' Could Reveal Crash Details

The government of Malaysia now has custody of the cockpit voice and flight data recorders from Malaysia Airlines Flight 17, which was hit by a missile over Ukraine before crashing last week. As VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports, the so-called black boxes may hold information about the final minutes of the flight.
Video

Video Living in the Shadows Panel Discussion

Following a screening of the new VOA documentary, "AIDS - Living in the Shadows," at the World AIDS conference in Melbourne, a panel discussed the film and how to combat the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS.
Video

Video IAEA: Iran Turns its Enriched Uranium Into Less Harmful Form

Iran has converted its stockpiles of enriched uranium into a less dangerous form that is more difficult to use for nuclear weapons, according to the United Nations’ Atomic Energy Agency. The move complies with an interim deal reached with Western powers on Iran's nuclear program last year, in exchange for easing of sanctions. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Relic of Saint Draws Catholics Worried About Immigration Issue

A Roman Catholic saint who is a figure of devotion for those crossing the border into the United States is attracting believers concerned about the plight of undocumented immigrants. Mike O'Sullivan reports from Los Angeles, where a relic of Saint Toribio has drawn thousands to local churches.
Video

Video US Awards Medal of Honor for Heroics in Bloodiest of Afghan Battles

U.S. combat troops are withdrawing from Afghanistan, on pace to leave the country by the end of this year. But on Monday, U.S. President Barack Obama took time to honor a soldier whose actions while under fire in Afghanistan earned him the Medal of Honor. VOA's Jeff Seldin has more from the Pentagon.
Video

Video Ukraine Rebels Surrender MH17 Black Boxes

After days of negotiations, a senior separatist leader handed over two black boxes from an airliner downed over eastern Ukraine to Malaysian experts early Tuesday. While on Monday, the U.N. Security Council unanimously demanded that armed groups controlling the crash site allow safe and unrestricted access to the wreckage.
Video

Video In Cambodia, HIV Diagnosis Brings Deadly Shame

Although HIV/AIDS is now a treatable condition, a positive diagnosis is still a life altering experience. In Cambodia, people living with HIV are often disowned by friends, family and the community. This humiliation can be unbearable. We bring you one Cambodian woman’s struggle to overcome a life tragedy and her own HIV positive diagnosis.

AppleAndroid