President Kibaki has on Wednesday directed the Attorney General and the minister for Information to consult media representatives on proposed amendments to the Communications Act.
He further asked the two to present the recommendations of the changes to the Cabinet for consideration.
The President said that he reached the decision following concerns by the media on the Act and an appeal by the Media Owners Association chairman Linus Gitahi through a letter addressed to him.
The President signed the Communications (Amendment) Bill 2008 into law on January 2nd 2008 after Parliament passed it late last year.
President Kibaki's action drew widespread criticism from the media industry, civil society and Clergy, who termed the Act as retrogressive and a threat to media freedom.
Below is the full text of Mr Gitahi's letter to President Kibaki.
By appending his signature on the Kenya communications bill, President Kibaki has now officially gagged the media in Kenya.
With this bill, the President has taken away Mwananchi's right to know, see and hear any issues that the Government may not want exposed.
The Media Owners Association has always held the view that there cannot be development without complete media freedom in a thriving democracy such as ours.
In his statement, the President referred to the Kenya communications act of 1998 where he pointed out that the Government has always reserved the right to seize communication equipment upon a declaration of a state of emergency.
We would want to clarify that this right only existed in relation to telecommunication equipment. With the new law, not only is broadcasting equipment now included but the law also gives sweeping powers to the minister of internal security to seize broadcasting equipment as and when he feels public tranquility is threatened.
It is wrong for one individual to determine what public tranquility is and raid on the standard newspapers is a stark reminder of how this can be abused!
As important is the question of content regulation where the CCK will determine what you should watch and when you should watch.
For instance, CCK now have the right to preview the news before its delivered to Kenyans. We think that this is totally unacceptable particularly because CCK board is wholly appointed by the Government without any representation from the stake holders.
The bill also gives the minister full control of the CCK which is thus subject to political directives in its regulatory responsibility over the broadcast media. Nothing is more dangerous to a free and independent press than legislation specifically created to provide for political control.
Kenyans will recall that last year, media worked with the Government and created a statutory media council. This council, which has representation from various stake holders including the civil society has recently formed a statutory complaints commission sworn two months ago to deal with any complaints of malpractice by the media.
It is headed by a professional qualified enough to be appointed a judge of the high court of Kenya. This new law completely usurps the powers of the media council and instead creates a wholly owned Government enterprise to control the media.
The media owners are acutely aware, concerned and are fully committed to the elimination of pornography and hate speech within our media outlets.
This is something that is aggressively being driven by the media council and with the complaints commission now in place, even the public will have a say and will be heard and their concerns addressed via this commission.
Indeed, we have also been working with the ministry of information and communications and the relevant parliamentary committee to strengthen the media council even more including stiffer penalties for arrant members. This is the right thing to do and the teams are busy working on this.
Finally, in the interest of a free media, we ask that the broadcast sections in this law be relooked at afresh .We are not about to give up on this fight because free media is a fundamental human right that should never be compromised for any other partisan interest.
Thank you very much and God bless Kenya.