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Government announces tough new media laws

(AFMT/IFEX) - On 8 January 2010, Kenya's Information and Communication's Permanent Secretary Dr. Bitange Ndemo announced tough new laws to regulate the media despite an agreement reached with media owners in 2009.

The government and media owners agreed in 2009 on a proposal tabled by Attorney General Amos Wako that removed clauses viewed by the media as repressive. In making the 8 January 2010 announcement, the government stabbed the media in the back by reintroducing the laws under the guise of regulations.

The toughest rules include censorship of content, limiting sex talk on FM radio stations and adult movies on television after 10:00 p.m., banning of cross media ownership and setting rules for political coverage during general elections.

Permanent Secretary Ndemo said the regulations became law, taking effect as of 1 January. Ndemo said the implementation had been delayed because media owners failed to send names of nominees to the Broadcast Council. He warned that they would be shut out of the process if they delayed.

"There is nowhere in the world where there is absolute freedom. We have to curtail some freedom for the sake of the majority," Ndemo said.

The new rules also introduced term licences where media owners will need to reapply for frequencies after seven years, unlike in the past when the period was unlimited.

Any individual who contravenes any provision of the regulations will have committed an offence and on conviction will be liable to a fine not exceeding one million Kenya shillings (approx. US$13,500) or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years.

The laws also state in part that a licence shall generally ensure that no broadcasts by a station shall contain the use of offensive language, including profanity and blasphemy, present sexual matters in an explicit and offensive manner or glorify violence. The content should not incite or perpetuate hatred or vilify any person or sector of the community on account of race, ethnicity, nationality, gender, sexual preference, age, disability, religion or culture.

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