6 July 2006

Kenya: New Media Laws Harsh, Says NMG Boss

Nairobi — The proposed Media and Broadcasting Bills aim at curtailing press freedom, Nation Media Group chief executive officer Wilfred Kiboro said yesterday.

Mr Kiboro said the planned laws are not good for a vibrant media industry.

He said the Broadcasting Bill, that proposes to set up a content advisory council to monitor and advise the Government on content development, could curtail free flow of information.

"The thought of a Government bureaucrat sitting behind radio and TV monitors, listening and watching what we are broadcasting and sending reports to the regulator, sends a chill down my spine," he said.

Mr Kiboro's remarks were contained in a speech read for him by the company's financial director, Mr Dennis Aluanga, during the Audit and Governance Conference Africa 2006 at the Whitesands hotel, Mombasa.

The NMG boss said media owners preferred self-regulation to Government control.

He said the media should spearhead good governance by promoting a culture of openness and exposing corruption both within the public and private sectors.

"The media has an important role to play in pressurising Government officials, corporate managers and directors to behave in ways that are socially and economically acceptable," he said.

He said the Nation Media Group had played a leading role in the fight against corruption in the country and gave examples of how it exposed both the Goldenberg and Anglo Leasing scandals.

The reason Africa suffers from underdevelopment had roots in poor governance both in the private sector and in Government, he said.

"Corruption especially in the area of procurement has been rampant in many African countries, and while governments have been blamed for peddling and abetting corruption, we must recognise that it is the private sector operatives who bribe government officials," he said.

He said the private sector is undoubtedly the engine of development and the manner in which companies are run ultimately affects stakeholders - shareholders, staff, suppliers, the Government and the society as a whole.

Mr Kiboro, however, said the media was facing a number of challenges in promoting good governance and one of them was access to information and freedom of expression.

"The second challenge is closely connected to the first. Journalists the world over expect to work in an environment where their security is guaranteed. There is therefore a real need for improved protection of journalists who investigate corruption," he said.

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