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Twenty-eight IFEX members call for president to reject draconian media bill

(Media Institute/IFEX) - The following is a joint appeal by 28 IFEX members:

JOINT LETTER OF APPEAL:

17 December 2008

H.E. Mwai Kibaki
President of the Republic of Kenya
Office of President, Harambee House
P. O. Box 30510
Nairobi, Kenya
Fax: +254 20 250264

17 December 2008

Your Excellency,

We, the undersigned organisations concerned with defending and promoting freedom of expression worldwide, appeal to you not to assent to the Kenya Communications Amendment Bill 2008, recently passed by Parliament.

We have noted that the bill as passed contains provisions that are potentially harmful to the operations of the media and are susceptible to abuse. We are also concerned that despite these clauses being pointed out and proposals offered for change by the media industry, the Members of Parliament have exhibited extreme hostility and intolerance towards the media, motivated by revenge or personal injury. That is a dangerous foundation for any legislation that will outlive generations.

We are concerned that the law opens up the media for potential interference in editorial content, and subjects the offenders under the bill to stiffer penalties relative to other offences under Kenyan law.

While we recognise the necessity for responsible media, the net effect of this legislation is to limit the free flow of information and to stifle Kenya's media, which has been touted as one of the most vibrant in the region and a model among developing countries.

We further call on your government to initiate an amendment to Section 88 of the Kenya Communications Act 1998, which is offensive to freedom of speech and the right to property provided for in the Kenya Constitution. While we recognise that in exceptional circumstances the government may intervene in the media in the interest of state security, such power should be exercised only by the President in a clearly defined manner or state of emergency and not by any other officials freely or in an open ended manner as prescribed by this Act.

We believe that while media regulation is necessary to ensure fair competition and ethical standards, the institution charged with this function should be independent from interference by any individual or body to enjoy the confidence of the public. We regret that the mode of appointment and composition of the Communications Commission under the bill does not meet the minimum criteria as it will be subject to manipulation and the direction of the Information and Communications Minister.

Media regulation and arbitration is not a function of government. It is the duty of an independent and credible body that enjoys the respect and support of the industry and the public.

We urge you to demonstrate your statesmanship and commitment to free media by listening to the voices of protest and objections raised by the media and the public and directing Parliament to revisit the law with a view to removing the clauses that threaten the media's ability to perform its functions.

We look forward to your kind attention.

Signed:
Adil Soz, International Foundation for Protection of Freedom of Speech, Kazakhstan
Arab Archives Institute (AAI), Jordan
Arabic Network for Human Rights Information (ANHRI), Egypt
Associação Brasileira de Jornalismo Investigativo (ABRAJI), Brazil
Association of Independent Electronic Media (ANEM), Serbia
Bahrain Center for Human Rights (BCHR), Bahrain
Cartoonists Rights Network International (CRN), U.S.A.
Centre for Media Freedom and Responsibility (CMFR), Philippines
Free Media Movement (FMM), Sri Lanka
Freedom House, U.S.A.
Independent Journalism Center (IJC), Moldova
International Federation of Journalists (IFJ), Belgium
International Press Institute (IPI), Austria
Institute for Reporters' Freedom and Safety (IRFS), Azerbaijan
Institute of Mass Information (IMI), Ukraine
Instituto Prensa y Sociedad de Venezuela (IPYS), Venezuela
Maharat Foundation, Lebanon
Media Entertainment and Arts Alliance (MEAA), Australia and New Zealand
Media Institute, Kenya
Media Institute of Southern Africa (MISA), Namibia
Media Rights Agenda (MRA), Nigeria
Media Watch, Bangladesh
National Union of Somali Journalists (NUSOJ), Somalia
Pakistan Press Foundation (PPF), Pakistan
Sindicato de Periodistas del Paraguay (SPP), Paraguay
Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ), U.S.A.
World Association of Newspapers (WAN), France
World Press Freedom Committee (WPFC), U.S.A.

Updates alerts on the proposed media bill: http://www.ifex.org/en/content/view/full/99387

Media Institute

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