2007 saw Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki sign into law a media bill amidst cries from members of the Fourth Estate that it would curtail press freedom. Kenya’s government has always assured journalists that it is committed to safeguarding the freedom of press but the media fraternity is not guaranteed of its independence especially after the famous 2006 raid on the Standard Group.
The President said the objective was to regulate the electronic media in order to promote and safeguard our culture, moral values and nationhood. We all breathed a collective sigh of relief: it wasn’t an attempt to gag the media, just protecting the nation’s moral values. So that’s alright then.
Well, it now seems the ‘gag’ agenda did not end there.
Some MPs in Kenya are now planning to regulate opinion polls (welcome to the new Kenya with a new constitution, have a nice day…). Pollsters have termed the bid as ‘ill advised and unnecessary’. The Standard’s editorial last Friday (‘Muzzling pollsters is an attack on freedom’) called it a ‘gimmick by busybody politicians’ and an attempt to ‘emasculate freedom of information , and by extension, Press freedom’. According to Managing Director of the Synovate Kenya, George Waititu, the move is a war on the freedom of expression and an attempt to gag the media because it is the media that publishes the polls.
The reactions came after the Kigumo MP Mr Jamleck Kamau, filed a motion to bring a bill that will set up a board to regulate opinion surveys with a view to ban those on politics according to the Daily Nation on Friday (‘MPs’ plan to regulate opinion polls opposed’). One clause under consideration is a requirement that the Board approves all questionnaires in advance and then authorises the results of surveys before they are released to the public.
Well, only time can tell if the MPs will have their way on this one but a survey among The Forum team, the result of which comes with the standard caveat that it contains a statistical margin of error of plus or minus three per cent, was zero per cent in favor and 100 per cent who thought it was sinister madness.
At least we can still publish the result! But for how much longer?