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PRESIDENT REJECTS CONTROVERSIAL MEDIA BILL

Press freedom groups welcomed Kenyan President Mwai Kibaki's refusal to sign into law a media bill that would compel reporters to reveal their sources in court.One of IFEX's members in Kenya, the Media Institute, had been campaigning vigorously against the bill.

President Kibaki said he refused to sign the media bill into law on the grounds that a last-minute amendment limiting the confidentiality of sources posed an "obstacle to press freedom" and ran counter to Kenya's "democratic efforts" in recent years. Under the amendment, journalists could be forced to identify their sources or unnamed individuals quoted in a story to the police or to the courts.

A consensus was achieved in the drafting of the bill but parliamentarian Karue Muriuki added the controversial amendment at the last moment, before the bill's approval on 2 August.

President Kibaki's announcement came a week after more than 300 journalists wearing black gags over their mouths marched silently through Kenya's capital to protest the proposed law, reports the Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ). Several radio stations also declined to run their morning news broadcasts, playing music or talk shows instead.

According to the Associated Press (AP), Kenyan journalists using anonymous sources have exposed some of the country's biggest scandals, such as the Goldenberg affair, when the government was cheated out of millions of dollars for fictitious gold and gem exports during the 1990s.

CPJ reports that the government is also withdrawing another media bill for redrafting. The Kenya Communication Bill contained restrictions on media ownership and provisions granting the government sweeping powers of search and seizure without judicial or parliamentary approval on suspicions of threats to national security.

Visit these links:
- "IFEX Communiqué" on media bill: http://tinyurl.com/32x6cn
- RSF: http://www.rsf.org/article.php3?id_article=23197
- CPJ: http://tinyurl.com/39vq9w
- CPJ on protest: http://tinyurl.com/2m63kp
- International Federation of Journalists: http://tinyurl.com/2no5m2
- AP: http://tinyurl.com/39ogj7
(28 August 2007)

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