- By Dickens Wasonga.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) are giving their full backing to journalists in Kenya in their battle against a contentious Media Bill that threatens press freedom in the country.
IFJ/FAJ affiliate, the Kenya Correspondents Association (KCA), is on Tuesday, 3 December, led hundreds of journalists in peaceful protests against the oppressive clauses of the Kenya Information and Communication Amendment (KICA) Bill.
“We support our affiliate’s stance and all journalists in Kenya,” said IFJ President Jim Boumelha. “This Bill’s draconian provisions are gagging the media. We call on all journalists and press freedom advocate to gather as one to reject the provisions.”
The KCA says the bill, recently passed by Kenya’s National Assembly, provides heavy financial penalties for journalists and media houses which are designed to gag the media and intimidate journalists into not covering stories deemed critical by the government and the ruling elite.
“We stand by all journalists and call on them to mobilize in order to make the protest successful. This Bill is an attempt to undermine freedoms of expression and association in the country and all journalists and media practitioners must refuse that,” said Mohamed Garba, FAJ president.
The International Federation of Journalists (IFJ) and the Federation of African Journalists (FAJ) have recently expressed serious concerns about the intimidation of journalists in Kenya and some provisions of the country’s media bill.
It has provisions for a Communications and Multi-Media Tribunal which will fine journalists up to 5,952 US Dollars if found guilty of writing stories considered in violation of the Act, and a fine of USD 238,095 US Dollars in the event that the tribunal finds them guilty of violation of provisions of the act, largely on stories considered critical of the government.
. The KCA says the Bill, which was forwarded to President Uhuru Kenyatta for assent, has now been returned to the National Assembly by the President but with recommendations which are still unacceptable to the media industry.
According to the KCA, the president only declined to assent to the Bill after protests from stakeholders but has sent it back to the National Assembly with a memorandum that reinforces some of the offensive clauses, including entrenching government control of the media.
“We had consultations with the Parliamentary Committee on Energy and Communications and tabled our recommendation on the Bill but we realize there are forces within the executive who are bent on gagging the media,” said KCA chairman William Oloo Janak.