Thursday, December 5, 2013

House adopts Uhuru's proposals on media Bill

President Uhuru Kenyatta. FILE

President Uhuru Kenyatta. FILE 

The punitive and contentious proposals by the President on one of the Bills on the regulation of the media were adopted by the National Assembly in a chaotic sitting Thursday morning.

A majority of the MPs in the chambers as Rachel Shebesh (Nairobi County, TNA) chaired the sitting were from the Jubilee coalition, their Cord counterparts having left the chambers en masse in protest after several failed attempts to postpone the matter.

The sitting Thursday morning was a carry-over from the chaos on Wednesday evening when Energy, Information and Communication Committee chairman Jamleck Kamau withdrew the changes to the Kenya Information and Communications (Amendment) Bill agreed with media interest groups.

Cord MPs argued that the Constitution doesn’t allow the President to prescribe laws for Parliament as this would create the possibility that he can come up with bad laws and force them on MPs.

They said the House Business Committee had erred in placing the memorandum on the Order Paper, which meant that the motion debated in the House was illegal right from the beginning.

The adoption of the President’s memorandum means the Communications and Multimedia Appeals Tribunal retains the power to impose fines on media houses and journalists, recommend deregistration of a journalist and make any order on freedom of expression.

It has also placed the successor of the Communication Commission of Kenya at the hands of the President and the Communications Cabinet Secretary as they can freely influence the appointment and removal of its board.

That body, the Communications Authority, will have the power to dictate how much of local content radio and television broadcasters should have.

“Right now the country is faced with anarchy, the country is faced with rogue leadership because we have a government that has decided that it wants to preside over this country through extra-constitutional means,” said Ababu Namwamba (Budalang’i, ODM).

At a press conference after the walk-out, Mr Namwamba said, “Today, Cord did not lose anything on the floor of the House. Impunity and unconstitutionality triumphed because we have a leadership of the House that does not want to obey the laws of the House.”

 “We are apologising to the nation and the media for what the Jubilee side of Parliament has done with the President’s memo. We believe what the President has taken the country through in the last two days was unwarranted, uncalled for and unconstitutional,” said Mr Midiwo.

Cord argued that according to the Constitution, President Kenyatta was only required to make reservations and not prescribe law.

“What President Uhuru has done is to purport to make law, which powers he doesn’t have (as) that power rests with Parliament,” said Mr Midiwo.


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