3 December 2013

Kenya: Parliament to Pass Media Law Today

Photo: The Star
Parliament postpones discussing the media bills pending decision to adopt the president's recommendations.(file photo).

Nairobi — The National Assembly is expected to pass the memorandum on the Kenya Communication (Amendment) Bill 2013 today as forwarded by President Uhuru Kenyatta. Last week Uhuru rejected to sign the bill into law as passed by the House.

The memorandum which appears worse than the original bill was subsequently committed to the Energy, Information and Communications committee by Speaker Justin Muturi.

Yesterday, committee member and Mwala MP Vincent Musau said the House will adopt the President's message but dissent on a few clauses. He said the House will not afford the high threshold of two-thirds majority needed to reject the memorandum.

"The communication from the President is as good as law because the prevailing circumstances are that the House will not be able to raise the 233 MPs required to reject it," Musau said.

The contentious provisions in the memorandum lay with the appointment and replacement of the individuals to the Communications Authority of Kenya, formally the Communications Commission of Kenya, the Communications Multimedia Tribunal and the penalty for violating the journalism code of conduct.

Offences upon which the tribunal will penalize media house have also been expanded and media houses that violate the code will be fined Sh20 million and journalists Sh500,000.

"The committee has so many issues with the mode of selecting the tribunal members. We had suggested that the membership be vetted by the National Assembly but the president said that the Cabinet Secretary and himself jumpstart the process," Musau said.

"In the rejected Bill we wanted to justify their independence by giving them an independent funding appropriated by the House. But that the role is with the CS we can't give them money. Parliament can only give money to a body that it can oversight. This is a big threat and confusion to the independence of the media," he said adding that the focus now lies with marshaling the two- thirds required to defeat the memorandum.

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