By Calvin Osiemo
Hours after the Members of Parliament passed the draconian media bill aimed at gagging the fourth estate, criticism has arisen from different quarters. ANC party leader Musalia Mudavadi has expressed his discontent with the passing of the laws terming the Powers and Privileges Bill as a bad experiment in legal impunity. Mudavadi also said that bill is unconstitutional and went ahead to urge President Uhuru Kenyatta not to assent to the bill whatsoever.
“The Bill makes Parliament a monarchy not open to public scrutiny. This cannot be allowed in (a) republican constitution. The Bill is therefore unconstitutional. The media is the watchdog for society. Any attempt to gag or criminalize media criticism and exposure of bad manners by the custodians of the peoples will is a dangerous precedent MPs cannot be allowed to set.” Mudavadi said.
The contents of the Bill indicate that any journalists reporting on parliamentary matters that may not be in the interest of Parliament, libelous and defamatory statements is liable to a Ksh. 500,000 or a jail term of up to two years.
Despite promises from Adan Keynan (Eldas) to have the draconian clauses from the bill deleted, majority of the MPs voted against the deletion of the controversial clauses.
The legislators rejected the setting up of an office of an internal ombudsman to investigate their malicious practices that include abuse of office, fraud, corruption, extortion and bribery. They also voted to stop the clerk of either the National Assembly or the Senate from inviting the Director of Public Prosecutions Keriako Tobiko to order investigations into improprieties within Parliament premises.
Turkana Member of Parliament Joyce Emanikor had proposed the deletion of the clauses to ensure media freedom in the country is not suppressed.
“This amendment seeks to align the provisions of the bill with Article 34 of the Constitution, which provides for freedom of the media and their right not to be penalized for any opinion or view or for the content of any broadcast, publication or dissemination,” said Ms. Emanikor
The passing of the bill has been viewed as a gimmick to tame the activities of journalists .The MPs have been accused of malpractices from bribery to false mileage allowance demands as well as mismanagement of funds.