Kenya govt agrees to repeal media law

Friday March 6 2009

Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Attorney General Amos Wako (right) and Media Owners Association chairman Linus Gitahi (left) during a media briefing March 5, 2009.The prime minister said parliament would amend sections of the contentious media law Photo/HEZRON NJOROGE

Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Attorney General Amos Wako (right) and Media Owners Association chairman Linus Gitahi (left) during a media briefing March 5, 2009.The prime minister said parliament would amend sections of the contentious media law Photo/HEZRON NJOROGE 

The Government has agreed to repeal the contentious sections of the Communications Amendment Act 2008 popularly known as the Media bill, Attorney General Amos Wako announced on Friday.

The move to repeal Section 88 of the Act which allowed the Minister for Internal Security to raid and close down media houses was reached after a high powered meeting between Prime Minister Raila Odinga, Mr Wako, Minister for Information and Communications Mr Samuel Poghisio and Media Owners Association officials.

The more than two hours meeting in Mr Odinga’s office broke the deadlock which had put the media and the government in a war path following the assenting of the bill by President Kibaki last year.

The AG who read out the resolved areas said Section 88 that gave the minister powers to raid and confiscate media property would be deleted from the Act after new recommendations are debated in parliament once it reopens.

He said other amendments would be on the broadcasting services authority to Broadcasting Service Advisory Board which will deal with issues of content and registration of the stations.

The government will also fund the Media Council , a regulatory body so that it is offered a lifeline from its current financial limitations and challenges. Section 102 of the Act will also be amended on the formation of tribunals to handle disputes to allow the appointment of two other people in consultation with the media industry stakeholders.

Mr Wako said the meeting was cordial and all issues were dealt with in the spirit of striking new grounds of cooperation.

Mr Odinga and Mr Wako, who spoke in turns, announced that Freedom of Information Bill that would address the concerns about Official Secrets Act is ready and will be presented to the Cabinet for discussion and thereafter tabled in Parliament.

Mr Odinga said the government is committed to media freedom because it is the measurement of democratic growth in any country. He advised journalists to be deal with facts and write the correct information rather than rumours.

The PM said he will issue a major statement on corruption in the government next week and periodical announcements will be made to keep the public informed on how the state was dealing with the vice.

Mr Odinga said famine and international economic difficulties are seriously affecting the poor yet a lot of issues of mismanagement had come into the public arena.

The MOA chairman Mr Linus Gitahi praised the cordial manner in which the deliberations were conducted and the speedy resolution of the contentious areas.

He said the freedom of press should be entrenched in the constitution so as to leave no doubt about how practitioners and the public are to operate.

Mr Poghisio said the media will henceforth be part of the consensus building and should embrace the government good will established from time to time.

The minister concurred with the PM that without the media freedom no governance process could succeed effectively because dissemination of policies and unearthing misrule practises put the fourth estate into a crucial player as a watch dog.

Mr Poghisio said long term decisions between the media and the government on how to relate will be considered from time to time. Those on the government side during the meeting were Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information Mr Bitange Ndemo, his counterpart in the PM’s office Mr Mohammed Isahakia, Director of information Mr Ezekiel Mutua, Administration Secretary in the PM’s office Mr Karoli Omondi among others.

The media side was represented by Mr Gitahi, the Standard Media Group deputy chairman Mr Paul Melly, Royal Media Chief Executive Mr Wachira Waruru, Editors Guild chairman Mr Macharia Gaitho and Mr David Makali among others. Former Kabete MP Paul Muite also attended the meeting.