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Government to dispel repressive clause in media law

(AFMF/IFEX) - The Kenyan government has published amendments to the Communications Act seeking to dispel the controversial clause that empowers the State to raid broadcasting stations. In 2008, the Ministry of Information and Communication drafted and presented to Parliament the Section 88 of the Kenya Information and Communications Act which enables the state to raid broadcasting houses and destroy or confiscate equipment in order to safeguard public safety which could otherwise be compromised by the populaces' reaction to the media reports. The Bill was passed by parliament and President Mwai Kibaki signed it into law on January 2, 2009, despite protests by the media industry and freedom of expression supporters.

The disputed section will be effectively expelled as soon as a Statute Law Bill published by Attorney-General Amos Wako on May 9, 2009 is passed by the Parliament.

The proposed amendments will also get rid of provisions granting the government power to scrutinize and control content broadcast on TV and radio. This task will now fall under the Broadcast Content Advisory Council. Members of the proposed Council will include the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication and six other members to be appointed by the information minister. Two of the six members will picked by the Media Council, one from the Law Society of Kenya and one will be nominated by the attorney general.

The attorney general also proposed amendments to the Media Act 2007 requiring the Treasury to provide funding to the Media Council. The funds will be audited yearly by the controller and auditor general in line with the Public Audit Act.

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