Kenyan parliament has passed a new
draconian media law that imposes harsh
penalties on journalists.
Journalists now face punitive measures for
violating the Code of Conduct for journalists,
including fines of up to Sh20 million.
They also risk being deregistered and their
bank accounts frozen.
MPs Thursday evening voted to create a
tribunal that will handle complaints against
the media and have power to impose the
harsh penalties.
This happened through the introduction of a
surprise change to the Kenya Information and
Communication Bill, which was passed last
evening with 17 per cent of MPs (60) present
in the chambers in the National Assembly.
The House accepted a proposal by the Energy,
Information and Communication Committee
for the creation of Communications and
Multimedia Appeals Tribunal.
The Tribunal would have the power to “impose
a fine of not more than Sh20 million on any
respondent media enterprise…adjudged to
have violated either that law or the Code of
Conduct for the Practice of Journalism.”
It has the power to fine individual journalists
“not more than Sh1 million” for violating the
same code.
It would also get worse because the fine would
be a debt, meaning the person or organisation
found to have broken the law would be liable
to have his bank accounts raided or their
property sold off for misreporting.
The tribunal also has the power to
“recommend the suspension or removal from
the register of the journalist involved.”
It has also been granted the power to make
any orders it feels would be necessary to carry
into effect the orders or directives it would
make.
28 MPs PRESENT
Proposed by Energy Committee chairman
Jamleck Kamau, the creation of this tribunal
was among amendments introduced with a
mere 28 MPs in the chambers.
Only a handful shouted aye when the vote was
called for but the fact that there was no one in
opposition was taken as evidence that all were
in agreement.
As they were going through the amendments,
Majority Leader Aden Dualle and Mr Kamau
detected that the Bill was not going to be
passed without the quorum of 50 MPs and
they rushed out to get the rest to come in.
“This is a controversial and good law but the
members are not here. This House is more full
when passing other Bills,” Mr Dualle would
later say.
After that, the 32 who hadn’t been in the
House came in and helped bring the numbers
up to 60 and then Speaker Justin Muturi called
for the verbal vote, the ayes had it and the Bill
was passed.

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