The media fraternity welcomes President Kibaki’s intervention in the ongoing dispute over the Kenya Communication (Amendment) Act 2008.
The President initially ignored entreaties by the industry not to assent to legislation that would curtail media freedom. But it appears wiser counsel has prevailed.
On Wednesday he directed the Attorney-General and the Minister for Information and Communications to listen to proposals from the industry and forward appropriate recommendations on suggested amendments for consideration by the Cabinet.
Too much time has already been wasted in a dispute that would never have occurred in the first place had representations by the media not been so casually dismissed by those who wished to impose outrageous restrictions on the free flow of information.
We suggest that, although the Act has already been gazetted, it should not be operationalised until input from media stakeholders is taken into account.
This makes more urgent the need for a speedy solution of this dispute, because it would be unfair to unduly delay legislation that affects a wide array of the communications industry because clauses unfavourable to broadcasters were inserted into the Bill.
However, as the media industry looks forward to fruitful discussions, there is reason for caution. Since the contentious Bill was first published in the middle of last year, there have been endless consultations that eventually led to nowhere.
The industry was misled that its proposed amendments would be taken into consideration, only for the final version to be published in its original and unacceptable form and then passed by Parliament in a manner that smacked of bad faith.
It would be in the best interest of all if, in the light of the President’s directive, there were no more underhand tactics in the next stage of negotiations. The industry desires and supports regulation, but will only accept laws that rise to high democratic standards.