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Kenya's Leader Holds Off Signing Media Bill

Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta arrives to attend Mashujaa Day at the Nyayo National Stadium, Nairobi, Oct. 20, 2013.
Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta says he will not sign a controversial new media bill until he has reviewed it to ensure that it is constitutional.

During a Saturday appearance, Kenyatta told reporters he had no intention of gagging the press.

The bill has sparked sharp criticism from the media and opposition politicians. It was approved by parliament late Thursday when only a handful of lawmakers were present.

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

In a statement released by his office, Kenyatta said he would review the bill and address possible "grey areas" to ensure that the measure is constitutional.

He also urged journalists to exercise responsibility.

Some critics of the measure said Kenyan press coverage of a September terrorist attack in Nairobi may have prompted lawmakers to draft the bill.

Some government officials had criticized media coverage of the deadly attack and siege at the Westgate mall.

Some news organization released 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.