Journalists breathed a sigh of relief yesterday when President Uhuru Kenyatta declined to sign into law the proposed Kenya Information and Communication Bill, 2013. The President outlined his reasons for rejecting the bill in a memorandum which he sent back to the National Assembly and directed MPs to make amendments on some contentious clauses before he could assent to it.
Among the President’s concerns was the appointment and removal of members of the board of the Communications Authority. He recommended that the powers be vested in him and the cabinet secretary to advertise and convene the selection panel of the board.
The President also did not agree with a clause that dictates the percentage of local content a broadcaster should have; a clause that he termed offensive and proposed that the power to set the quota be given to the Communications Authority of Kenya.
PROPOSED FINES STAY WITH REVISIONS
The clause proposing punitive fines of not more than Sh 20 million for media houses and not more than Sh 1 million for individual journalists who flout provisions of the law or the professional code of conduct was retained but the President lowered the penalty for individual journalists to Sh 500,000 citing the previous amount as onerous for an individual. Uhuru also recommended the fines no to be considered ‘recoverable as a debt’ and also retained the powers of the tribunal to recommend deregistration of journalists.
AGGRIEVED PARTY NOT TO RECEIVE PENALTY PAYMENTS
Following the President’s recommendations the financial penalties incurred by journalists and media houses will be paid to the Communications and Multimedia Appeals Tribunal and not to the aggrieved party as MPs had proposed. The President also recommended that fines should not be imposed for breaching the code of conduct.
“The code of conduct deals with ethical issues and matters relating to misconduct in relation to media practitioners and may not therefore require penal consequences. Such matters are dealt with in disciplinary or other similar processes,” said President Kenyatta in his memo.
TRIBUNAL TO RTEAIN WIDE POWERS
Also left intact was the extensive power of the tribunal to “make any supplementary or ancillary orders or directions that it may consider necessary for carrying into effect orders or directives made”.
According to the Speaker of the National Assembly, Justin Muturi, MPs would need a majority of 233 MPs i.e. two-thirds of the membership of the National Assembly to reject the President’s proposals and maintain it in its current form.