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Archive for August 14th, 2007

Kenya and the Media Bill

Posted by African Press International on August 14, 2007

By Patrick Gathara

In the past few weeks, the local media has been beside itself over the passage of the Media Bill 2007. In editorial after howling editorial, parliamentarians have been excoriated (and rightly so) over their attempts to force journalists to reveal their sources. However, the mainstream media is itself far from blameless.

On Monday, July 30, the Standard reported on a deal struck by the Government and “media stakeholders”, including the Media Owner’s Association, on a raft of proposed amendments to the controversial Media bill.
One of those “deals” was to amend the clause defining who is a journalist. The original definition in Kagwe’s bill reads: “‘journalist’ means any person who earns a living from the practice of journalism, or any person who habitually engages in the practice of journalism and is recognized as such by the Council”. According to the Standard, the “media stakeholders” would like to replace this definition with one that includes the provision that a journalist is one who “holds a diploma or degree in mass communication from a recognised institution of higher learning and is recognised by the council as such”. MOA chairman, Mr Hannington Gaya opined, “[The proposed amendment] makes journalism a respected profession as it distinguishes who is a journalist and who is not”.

However the immediate effect of such a clause would be to deny many lifelong journalists legal recognition on the pretext that they do not possess the requisite academic qualifications. By this definition, the late Wahome Mutahi and Mohammed Amin would not be considered journalists since neither actually studied mass communication. GADO, MADD and almost the entire gamut of Kenyan cartoonists would also be excluded on a similar pretext as would many newspaper correspondents countrywide. Many self-published individuals such as bloggers would also be denied similar recognition as would members of the so-called “alternative press”. All would lose any privileges and protections extended to mainstream “journalists” under the Bill.

It is worth noting that while a hue and cry has been raised over the Karue amendment, the mainstream media have been strangely quiet over the deal cut by their bosses. This in spite of a statement from the Media Council of Kenya which states that journalism is “talent driven profession”.

The second part of the proposed definition is also problematic. The requirement for “recognition” by the statutory Media Council raises the spectre of journalists being forced to register with (and consequently face the threat of deregistration by) the Council, whose officials are appointed and paid by the state.

Far from seeking to bring “respectability” to what Paul Muite calls “a necessary evil”, the amendment seeks to place limits on who may or may not practice journalism. It plays into the hands of politicians who would like nothing more than to limit the avenues through which information can be conveyed to the public. It needs to be opposed by all.

Published by Korir, API*APN tel +47 932 99 739 or +47 6300 2525

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Ivorian President holds urgent meeting with regular army

Posted by African Press International on August 14, 2007

Abidjan (Cote dIvoire) The Ivorian President Laurent Gbagbo will hold an urgent meeting with the national army on Tuesday afternoon at the state house in Abidjan, the government spokesman Gervais Coulibaly said Monday evening on state television.

The simmering discontent in the army resurfaced last week as some soldiers protested against their several outstanding allowances.

Such a situation may jeopardise the peace process underway in the country since the Ouagadougou peace deal, signed last 4 March.

The controversial issue of the ranks the Armed Forces of the New Forces (FAFN, former rebels) awarded themselves will certainly be part of the agenda.

The regular armed forces and the FAFN paraded together on 7 August in Abidjan during the 47th independence day of Cote dIvoire.

Published by Korir, API*APN tel +47 932 99 739 or +47 6300 2525 source.apa

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US orders Eritrea to close California consulate

Posted by African Press International on August 14, 2007

Washington DC (United States) The United States has given Eritrea a 90-day deadline, ending November 8, to close down its consulate in Oakland (California) due to restrictions imposed on diplomats at the US Embassy in Asmara, which include travel curbs, visa refusal to US officials, and the non-delivery of diplomatic mail bags, “all of which tantamount to violation of international protocol”, APA learnt Tuesday.

U.S.-Eritrean relations have declined in recent months as Eritrea increasingly blames Washington for the impasse in its border dispute with Ethiopia.

On its part, Washington has accused Asmara of playing a negative role in Somalia, where UN experts accused Eritrean authorities of supplying weapons to Islamic militants.

Simultaneously, Eritreas dictatorial leadership is accused of clamping down on internal dissent hindering humanitarian aid workers to perform their work, including those affiliated with foreign governments.

Human rights groups have criticised Eritrea for curtailing religious and media freedom, and imprisoning political opponents.

The U.S. Agency for International Development was forced to close its Eritrea operations in December 2005 because the government objected to its presence.

Published by Korir, API*APN tel +47 932 99 739 or +47 6300 2525 source.apa

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Sudanese delegation visits Egypt to discuss refugee problem

Posted by African Press International on August 14, 2007

Khartoum (Sudan) A Sudanese delegation leaves for Cairo on Wednesday to discuss with Egyptian authorities the infiltration of Sudanese refugees into the country en route to Israel.

The delegation, which comprises high-ranking officials from the ministry of interior, will stay in Egypt for 3-4 months to find a solution to the crisis.

The delegation will also seek to find out the circumstances under which Sudanese have reportedly been killed by Egyptian police on the Egypt-Israeli border.

The Sudanese state minister of interior, Aliu Abang said on Tuesday that most of the Sudanese refugees in Egypt would be forced to return.

The Sudanese government will provide aid to the returnees and undertake to transport them back to Sudan by air and railroad, he said.

However, Abang said the delegation would not contact Israel to retrieve the Sudanese who have sought refuge there because there are no diplomatic relations between the two countries.

Last week, an Israeli soldier reported seeing Egyptian guards shooting one man and beating two others to death.

Reports in Israel say army surveillance video showed Egyptian border guards opening fire on the three refugees.

However, Egyptian officials have denied this and accused Israel of trying to \”drive a wedge\” between Egypt and Sudan.

Last month, Egyptian police said they had shot dead a Sudanese woman and wounded several others who were trying to reach Israel.

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