Kenyan MPs bow to pressure, rescind bid to gag media


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Kenyan MPs bow to pressure, rescind bid to gag media
NAIROBI, Kenya, Oct 21 – The National Assembly has deleted Clause 34 from the Powers and Privileges Bill which curtails reporting on parliamentary matters following mounting pressure.

The Kenya Editors Guild, Kenya Union of Journalists, Kenya Correspondents Association and the Media Council of Kenya led objections to the offensive clause while President Uhuru Kenyatta on Tuesday urged MPs to allow the media to operate without threats.

House Speaker Justin Muturi last week deferred voting on the Bill after MPs had rejected an attempt by Eldas MP Adan Keynan to delete clauses that would have required journalists to seek parliamentary approval before publishing proceedings of Parliament or any of its committees, and another one which sought to introduce the offences of defamation and ‘scandalous libel’ on Parliament.

Muturi said the House needed to reconsider the offensive provisions to ensure they did not raise constitutional hurdles.

Majority Leader Aden Duale and Ainabkoi MP Samuel Chepkong’a said it had become necessary to recommit the Bill to the House so that lawmakers can correct the anomaly.

“This will give this House the opportunity to rectify some of the missteps that occurred during the morning sitting last Wednesday. The amendments we shall bring forthwith will seek to align the provisions of the Bill with Article 34 which provides for the freedom of the media and the right not to be penalised for any opinion or view,” Duale said.

Chepkong’a termed passage of the Bill as a low moment for the House, stating that the media should be allowed to cover both positive and negative goings on.

READ: MPs stab journalists in the back, twist the knife

In supporting the proposal to delete the clause, Minority Deputy Leader Jakoyo Midiwo blamed the error on lack of consultation by the Executive while Tongeren MP Eseli Simiyu said the House Leadership should take responsibility for allowing similar unconstitutional clauses before the House.

“Let us not go the Media Bill, KDF Bill or Security Laws Amendment Bill way, let us discuss our laws so we don’t collective keep looking bad, and looking up to the Speaker to guide us before it gets too bad,” Midiwo said.

Simiyu added: “The Hansard will bear me out; I have stood about four times to ask the Speaker, is this Bill really constitutional? And the Speaker always says, let the House decide. The Standing Orders clearly tell us that it is the duty of the Speaker to determine the constitutionality of a Bill before it gets here. The lack of decision on the constitutionality of Bills has come to haunt this House.”

Seme MP James Nyikal opposed the proposal saying the House needed to ensure there was a mechanism to penalise those who make false statement against MPs even though Temporary Speaker Moses Cheboi and Jubilee Coalition Whip argued that provision was provided in the Constitution.

“We have correctly quoted Article 34(2) but we have also cleverly neglected to quote Article 34 (1). Mr Speaker I know history and Hansard will say that this day Nyikal was right but he was alone at this point I do not support,” Nyikal stated.

The Bill now proceeds to the Senate for consideration and approval.

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