The Star (Nairobi)

7 November 2013

Kenya: Complaints Tribunal Can Easily Gag Media

editorial

CHAIRMAN of the parliamentary Information committee Jamleck Kamau has accused the media of misleading the public over the new Kenya Information and Communication Amendment Bill.

He said the bill was not unconstitutional and that the government had no intention to gag the media.

The bill allows the Tribunal to "recommend the suspension or removal from the register of the journalist involved." That would ban someone from working as a journalist. Surely that breaches the constitutional right to freedom of information?

More importantly, the Information Cabinet Secretary will appoint a selection panel to choose the Tribunal members. No journalist will sit on that five person selection panel.

The panel will advertise and interview for the posts and forward three names for each position to the Information secretary who will then pick the members of the Tribunal.

The new complaints Tribunal will therefore be directly appointed by the Information secretary. There is no legal obligation to have even one journalist on the Tribunal.

The Tribunal can levy crippling fines of up to Sh20 million on a whim. It has no legal obligation to justify its decisions.

A body with such powers directly appointed by the Information secretary can easily be used to gag the media.

Quote of the day: "People ask the difference between a leader and a boss. The leader leads, and the boss drives." - Franklin D. Roosevelt was elected US president for the fourth time on November 7, 1944

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