Investigative journalists on the spot in new security Bill


NAIROBI, Kenya, Dec 9 – Newly proposed security laws are seeking to jail or fine journalists who are found guilty of undermining investigations or security operations through their broadcasts or publications.

The Security Laws (Amendment) Bill 2014 wants such persons jailed for up to three years or fined Sh5 million or both.

Amendment 30F(1) states, “Any person who, without authorisation from the National Police Service, broadcasts any information which undermines investigations or security operations relating to terrorism commits an offence and is liable of conviction to a term of imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or to a fine not exceeding five million shillings, or both.”

Although it further states that one may publish or broadcast factual information of a general nature to the public, anyone who publishes photographs of victims of terrorism without the consent of the National Police Service commits an offence and is liable to a conviction of a term of imprisonment not exceeding three years or a fine of five million shillings or both.

The Bill also proposes to allow the National Security Organs to intercept communication for the purpose of detecting, deterring and disrupting terrorism and related activities.

It also establishes a counter-terrorism center to coordinate national counter-terrorism efforts.

These proposals were contained in a report that was handed over to President Uhuru Kenyatta by the National Security Council last week.

An individual who publishes or distributes obscene or gory material likely to cause fear or alarm to the public will attract a fine of not more than Sh1 million or an imprisonment of three years and where the offence is committed by a media house, the institution will have to part with Sh5 million fine.

Kenyans on social media should also be on the lookout, especially those who post updates that praise, advocate or incite acts of terrorism that they risk getting imprisoned for over twenty years same as a person found in possession of an improvised explosive device or a grenade.

For those who adopt ideologies based on violence and which advance political, religious or social change in terms of radicalization, a jail term of not more than thirty years awaits them.

These are among many other proposals meant to tighten the law on terrorism in a bid to counter the numerous acts that have befallen innocent Kenyans leading to deaths of hundreds in the past few months the latest being the execution of 36 quarry miners in Koromey, Mandera County.

Part of the proposals also touch on the issue of stripping of women as was witnessed in the past three weeks, where women alleged to have been indecently dressed have been undressed by members of the public, while some have even been assaulted.

To this cause, the Penal Code was amended by inserting a new section.

Section 51 would thus state, “A person who intentionally insults the modesty of any other person by intruding upon that person’s privacy or strips such a person is guilty of a felony and is liable to imprisonment for a term not exceeding twenty years.”

“A person who is convicted of an offence under section 296(1), 297(1), 308 or 322 of the Penal Code, the prevention of Terrorism Act or the Sexual Offences Act shall be subject to police supervision for a period of five years from the date of his release from prison”.

The Bill also proposes the monitoring of operations of employment bureaus and agencies to ensure the unscrupulous ones are dealt with.

To this effect, every employment bureau or agency shall be required to seek and obtain government approval prior to sending Kenyan Citizens for employment outside Kenya.

Other key proposals include giving the National Intelligence Service (NIS) power to arrest, detain and interrogate suspected terrorists, the removal of security of tenure for the Inspector General of Police, the deputies and also the Director of Criminal Investigation thereby giving the President the power to appoint and allowing the admissibility of digital photographs in court.

Owing to the fact that the National Assembly will be going on recess on Thursday coupled with the urgent need to contain the security situation in the country, the House has in the meantime approved that debate on this Bill be fast tracked, with publication period shortened from 14 days to just a day.

Public debate on these proposals is due Wednesday.

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