Nairobi — Kenya's media suffered a major setback Thursday after the National Assembly approved all recommendations presented by President Uhuru Kenyatta on the controversial Kenya Information and Communications Amendment (KICA) Bill 2013.
This came even as the chairman of the parliamentary committee on Energy, Information and Communication Jamleck Kamau stated in Parliament that they had arrived at a consensus with media stakeholders on contentious clauses.
"The committee has not ceded to the Executive in any way whatsoever. The committee sat with the stakeholders and we came to an agreement that all the media stakeholders. The withdrawal of the clauses by the media fraternity was all done in good faith," he said.
Despite Gem MP Jakoyo Midiwo's plea that President Kenyatta's recommendations would set a dangerous precedent, the CORD coalition lacked the sufficient numbers to shoot down the recommendations.
"Mr Speaker, you require two thirds majority to vote on such amendments and we do not have that. In addition, according to the Constitution, legislation is vested in Parliament," stated the Gem legislator.
"What we have before us is that this Excellency the President is practicing legislation and if we do not do this with deep thought, we will be setting a dangerous precedence. We will also be opening up the window for a future rogue President," he appealed.
House Speaker Justin Muturi however, pointed out that the President had carried out his constitutional mandate.
"The President has a role to play, that is to assent to passed bills. It is still within your powers as MPs to suggest amendments to the Constitution. In your own Constitution, you went on to provide that if a President does not assent to a bill that has been passed within seven days, then it will become law," he said.
"As it is the President has a role in the Constitution which is provided for. The President has done what he has done and if you do not agree, then it is within your power to propose amendments to the Constitution."
The amendments were passed after some of CORD MPs staged a walkout on realising they lacked sufficient numbers.
According to media practitioners, the President's memorandum on the Kenya Information and Communication Amendment Bill 2013 contains unconstitutional clauses as well as contradicting recommendations that will largely impact media environment negatively.
The contradictory and punitive clauses have raised fresh fears of targeted State gagging of the media and individual journalists.
Article 34 (2) (b) of the Constitution on the freedom of media says: The State shall not penalise any person for any opinion or view or the content of any broadcast, publication or dissemination.
President Kenyatta's memorandum proposes an amendment to impose a fine of not more than Sh20 million on any respondent media enterprise and a fine of not more than Sh500,000 on any journalist adjudged to have violated this Act.
The meeting with media stakeholders had resolved that at least three bodies were required to give full effect to Article 34 of the Constitution including the Media Council of Kenya to regulate and enforce ethical, code of conduct and professional standards.
The second body would be the State owned Communications Commission of Kenya (renamed Communications Authority of Kenya) to deal with frequency assignment, licensing, signal distribution, airwaves and broadcasting policies.
It can deal with telecommunication issues and security relation frequencies too.
The third body was to be State owned which can be the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation.
A key issue stakeholders opposed is the retention of Multi-Media Appeals Tribunal in the KICA bill and the fact that it has been given it all powers currently vested in the Complaints Commission.