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ODM rejects Media Bill

Saturday December 13 2008

Prime Minister Raila Odinga (right) and Lands

Prime Minister Raila Odinga (right) and Lands Minister James Orengo consult at a public rally. Photo/FILE 

By NATION Team

The Orange Democratic Movement on Saturday vowed to take legal action if the President assents the Kenya Communications Amendment Bill, 2008 into law.

Lands Minister James Orengo said the bill was unconstitutional and negates section 79 of the constitution that guarantees freedom of expression.

“The position of ODM as far as the media bill is concerned is that it is should not have been there. As a party we do not support it because it reduces the democratic space,” he said.

Mr Orengo said ODM was not party to the new media bill as it was approved by the cabinet before the formation of the Grand Coalition Government.

“If the president assents to the bill, we still have a right to go to court though I do not think we want to go that direction,” said the lands minister.

The Lands Minister who represented Prime Minister Raila Odinga at a press conference in Mumias, said Information minister Samuel Poghisio took the bill to parliament when other MPs were meeting President Mwai Kibaki and Mr Odinga on the formation of a special tribunal to try suspects on the post-election violence.

“Many of us were not in the house when the bill was going through,” he reiterated.

Orengo noted that there were sufficient laws in place that needed only slight modifications if any to give the media more democratic space.

“This bill takes us back many years democratically. But I want to assure the media fraternity that the Prime minister is right now engaged in discussing the matter further,” he told the press in Mumias on Saturday.

Mr Orengo said that the PM had scheduled a meeting for Monday with the media owners association where he'll receive a petition from the media owners.

“There are things one must stand and speak against without hesitation. With all good intentions this bill is going to fail,” he assured the media fraternity.

The minister said that it was embarrassing to see the state resort to coercion to limit the freedom of expression which he said consisted of the freedom to hold peaceful demonstration.

“I feel a little ashamed that people like Nyambane (Walter Mongare), Mati (Mwalimu) and Caroline Mutoko could be arrested for doing what is right,” said Mr Orengo.

The party also pledged to rally legislators to reach a compromise to allow their salaries and allowances to be taxed.

Mr Orengo said that ODM has listened to the public outcry and would announce some kind of agreement to remit their taxes.

It should be noted that it is the responsibility of every Kenyan to make a contribution to go through the current financial and food crisis in the country and MPs needed to pay their taxes, he reiterated.