We’ll not gag the media, Promises CS Fred Matiang’i
Published on: October 16, 2015 08:22 (EAT)
The Government is adamant that the contentious clauses in the Powers and Privileges Bill must be removed during deliberations on the review of the Bill. Information Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i said through the leader of the Majority Aden Duale and the chair of the communication departmental committee Jamleck Kamau, the Government will push for the legislation to be altered to uphold media freedom. Matiang’i also called for sobriety among stakeholders during the deliberations. Two days ago, the National Assembly approved a contentious clause in the Powers and Privileges Amendment Bill 2014 that prohibits reporters from airing stories that are deemed defamatory to the House. The National Assembly has retained Clause 34 of the contentious Bill despite assurance by its mover Eldas MP Adan Keynan that it will be deleted. The clause proposes a Ksh.500,000 fine for anyone who publishes an article deemed defamatory to Parliament. The clause states: “A person commits an offence if the person publishes any false or scandalous libel on Parliament, its committees or its proceedings or speaks words defamatory of Parliament, its committees or its proceedings”. Article 35 states: “A person convicted of an offence under this Act for which no penalty provided shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding five hundred thousand shillings or to a term of imprisonment not exceeding two years or to both.” The Bill gives the Clerk powers to make a request to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) to take action actions the said person with the DPP being required to submit a report to the clerk within 30 days of receipt of the request for action to be taken on the matter. The Bill is at the Committee Stage of the law making process. The MPs, however, deleted clause 27 requiring Speaker’s permission for reporters to cover Parliamentary proceedings but retained the litigious clause that spells heavy penalties for reporters who would be adjudged to have defamed Parliament. Four days ago, Keynan assured the country that he will delete the contentious clause in the Bill that would gag the media following a public outcry. The initial Bill had given the Speakers of both Houses and Parliamentary Committee chairmen power to dictate to the media what to publish or air during the House proceedings to committee meetings. The Bill is set to result in a clash between Parliament and the media; coming months after House Speaker Justin Muturi assured the media that Parliament will not pass laws that will infringe on their freedoms. Speaking in a meeting with media owners and editors during Parliament week, Muturi said issues raised over the contentious clauses in the Bill are valid stating that adjustments will be made to come up with a better Bill. Muturi acknowledged the importance of the media in informing the public on the on-goings in Parliament adding that the fourth estate should be allowed to question any under dealings in Parliament.