Media in Kenya up in arms over new curbs on media freedom

AFRICAN MIRROR REPORTER

THE media industry in Kenya has raised serious concerns about new restrictions on media reporting of political events.

In a joint statement, the 13 organisations that make up the Kenyan Working Media Sector Group (KWMSG), said the new restrictions, approved by the Kenyan National Security Advisory Committee (NSAC) and national cabinet, would interfere with the work of the media.

The government of Kenya has introduced the new curbs in order to address political activity that threatened law and order.

The KWMSG said the new restrictions were unnecessary and called for them to be lifted. The institutions said they were concerned about a trend where security agencies have assumed powers that amounted to curbs on media freedom.

In a joint statement, the organisation said: 

“We recognise and are appraised that heightened political activity is showing evidence of inflammatory utterances that can serve to ignite tension and hatred in the country. There have also been recent incidents of political violence that have regrettably led to loss of life. We acknowledge that irresponsible media reporting in this environment can sometimes have the effect of fuelling the tensions. “That is why we have been at the forefront in encouraging responsible and professional journalism, which has included regular peer review engagements, media information literacy, training programmes on conflict-sensitive reporting, hate speech, election reporting and coverage of communal, ethnic and political strife.“ These efforts by media stakeholders are well documented and played an integral part in the evolution of the media co-regulatory framework established by law under the Media Council of Kenya Act. The media in Kenya has proved itself one of the most professional, independent and responsible in Africa.

“We are therefore surprised that the National Security Advisory Committee and the Cabinet are proposing curbs on media reporting of political activity without reference to the independent media regulatory body recognised and established by Article 34 of the Constitution, The Media Council Act 2013 and the Kenya Information Communications Act (KICA).”
The KWMSG said any breaches of the ethical guidelines in reporting under the current political environment would be best addressed through established mechanisms such as the Media Complaints Commission, “rather than giving security agencies unchecked powers to control the media”.

“We would also caution against any curbs that threaten editorial independence and prerogatives, or any attempts to silence discordant voices that may seem to find expression through the media.

The leadership of the media industry therefore urges that the National Security Advisory Committee statement and the Multi-Agency Team on Public Order terms of reference be reviewed to remove any that pose threats to media freedom as outlined in Section 6 of the Media Council Act, and the general freedom of speech, expression and communications enjoyed by all,” the KWMSG said.

The 13 organisations that signed the memorandum are:

1. DAVID OMWOYO MCK

2. ERICK ODUOR KUJ

3. CHURCHILL OTIENO KEG

4. MERCELINE NYAMBALA AMWIK

5. WILLIAM JANAK KCA

6. DINAH KITUYI IREX

7. JOEL KARANJA DBA

8. MOSES NJAGI KPJA

9. JERRY RAWLINGS PJAK

10. TOM MBOYA KCOMNET

11. ROSELYNEOBALA ADJ

12. ROBERT WANJALA ARTICLEA

13 EASTERN AFRICA