In Summary
  • With the President’s assent, the law creates a government-controlled body with power to punish journalists and media houses
  • The new law retains the Sh20 million fine against media houses proposed by MPs

The draconian media bill passed by the National Assembly two weeks ago is now law.

President Uhuru Kenyatta has signed into law the contentious Kenya Information and Communications (Amendment) Bill passed by MPs on December 4, 2013 before they went on Christmas recess.

House Speaker Justin Muturi told the Nation on Monday evening that President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the Bill into law on Wednesday.

With the President’s assent, the law creates a government-controlled body with power to punish journalists and media houses for their reporting. (READ: Media owners vow to challenge Bill in court)

Interestingly, the House also passed a law which establishes a self-regulatory mechanism for the media but puts a government-controlled tribunal on top of it. (READ: House adopts Uhuru's proposals on media Bill)

The net effect is a law that severely restricts press freedom and breaches the constitutional protections granted journalists. (READ: Ruto supports passage of conflicting media laws)

CHAOTIC SITTING

The media Bills were passed in a chaotic sitting chaired by temporary speaker Rachel Shebesh (Nairobi County, TNA). The majority of MPs in the chamber were drawn from the Jubilee Coalition. Their Cord counterparts left en masse in protest after several failed attempts to postpone debate on the matter. (READ: Muturi blamed for debate chaos)

President Kenyatta had made changes to the Bill when it was first passed by the MPs and made amendments to transfer control of institutions with authority to punish journalists and their employers from the National Assembly to the Executive and the Presidency.

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