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

DRC Tries Mega-Farms to Feed Population

Park at Boukanga Lonzo currently has 5,000 hectares under cultivation, crops stretching as far as eye can see, and is start of ambitious large-scale agriculture plan More

Video Survivor Video Testimonies Recount Horrors of Guatemalan Genocide

During a conflict that spanned more than three decades, tens of thousands of indigenous Mayans were killed More

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Areas are spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, source of livelihood for fishermen and herders who have called the marshes home for generations 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.
Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOAi
X
August 31, 2015 2:17 AM
Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video Nobel Prize Winner Malala Talks to VOA

Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzai met with VOA's Deewa service in Washington Sunday to talk about women’s rights and unveil a trailer for her new documentary. VOA's Katherine Gypson has more.
Video

Video War, Drought Threaten Iraq's Marshlands

Iraq's southern wetlands are in crisis. These areas are the spawning ground for Gulf fisheries, a resting place for migrating wildfowl, and source of livelihood for fishermen and herders. Faith Lapidus has more.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Rebuilding New Orleans' Music Scene

Ten years after Hurricane Katrina inundated New Orleans, threatening to wash away its vibrant musical heritage along with its neighborhoods, the beat goes on. As Bronwyn Benito and Faith Lapidus report, a Musicians' Village is preserving the city's unique sound.
Video

Video In Russia, Auto Industry in Tailspin

Industry insiders say country relies too heavily on imports as inflation cuts too many consumers out of the market. Daniel Schearf has more from Moscow.
Video

Video Scientist Calls Use of Fetal Tissue in Medical Research Essential

An anti-abortion group responsible for secret recordings of workers at a women's health care organization claims the workers shown are offering baby parts for sale, a charge the organization strongly denies. While the selling of fetal tissue is against the law in the United States, abortion and the use of donated fetal tissue for medical research are both legal. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.

VOA Blogs