Kenya: IEBC Mulls Action Against Tabitha Mutemi for Taking Up Media Council Job As Ministry Calls for Revocation

Nairobi — The Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) says it will take action against its Communications Manager Tabitha Mutemi for taking up a job at the Media Council of Kenya (MCK), in contravention of the commission's code of ethics.

Mutemi is embroiled in a tussle to keep her job as a board member at MCK, in what the Attorney General's office says is an illegality because she is a state officer by virtue of her post at IEBC.

Trouble started when MCK's Chief Executive Officer David Omwoyo wrote to IEBC Chairman Wafula Chebukati seeking clarity on whether Tabitha was still an employee at the commission.

In a letter dated March 1, Chebukati wrote back confirming her employment.

"The Commission acknowledges Ms Tabitha Muchemi as an employee of IEBC," Chebukati said, "however, the commission was neither consulted nor notified of Ms Mutemi's employment as a Board member of the Media Council of Kenya."

He said MCK is at liberty to take appropriate legal action against her.

"In view of the foregoing development, the Commission will undertake action at an appropriate time in accordance with the IEBC Act and it's Human Resource procedure," Chebukati said.

And in yet another development, the Ministry of Information and Communication (ICT) has written to the Clerk of the National Assembly Clerk, saying Tabitha's continued stay at MCK is a violation of the law.

"The Holding of both offices of an employee of IEBC and a member of the MCK board is a continuing violation of the Constitution and other statutes requiring remedial action," said Esther Koimett, the Principal Secretary at the State Department of Broadcasting and Telecommunication.

A letter in January 2021 by MCK's CEO to the MCK board Chairman Maina Muiruri that the Secretariat will not recognize Tabitha as a board member due to the illegality in her employment sparked mixed reactions from various stakeholders, including the Kenya Editors Guild (KEG).

KEG President Churchil Otieno said the Guild was concerned at the impasse at MCK over the attempted removal of Tabitha as a board member.

"Insofar as it is the body mandated by the Constitution of Kenya to oversee the Media co-regulatory framework, it is our view that any actions which impact on the integrity and independence of the MCK by extension pose a threat to media freedom," Churchil said in a statement.

The Guild was among bodies invited by the National Assembly's departmental committee on Communication, Information and Innovation on Wednesday.

Others were the Media Council of Kenya, the Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ) and the Kenya Correspondents Association (KCA).

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