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Saturday, August 04, 2007

It's Official: Free Press Ends In Kenya

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Press freedom in Kenya has suffered a major blow with the passing of the controversial Media bill which the Kibaki administration fought tooth and nail soaking in all sort of pressure to ensure that it was passed.

A clause cleverly sneaked in at the 11th hour forces journalists to divulge their source of information in the event that their articles or stories become the subject of a court case. This "sledge hammer" clause combined with the official secrets act that is still in place well over 40 years after independence, means that Anglo Leasing secrets and corruption in high places is safe from ever being unearthed.

The legendary Washington Post journalists who broke the Watergate scandal that forced President Richard Nixon's resignation got a tip off from somebody within government. It is highly unlikely that any such thing can ever happen in Kenya with the new media law in force.

It also means that no brave news source within the borders of the country is safe. They can always be exposed at any time. All somebody has to do is force the matter into court. Even criminals can now make use of this clause rather effectively to silence any would-be witnesses.

But I believe that Historians will also take note of one Mutahi Kagwe...

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8 comments:

Taabu said...

We surely get the leaders we deserve. Ours cry faul only when the ham is not sliced to thier taste. This bill was shamelessly passed by only 27 MPs in a house of 222. These chaps are taking the whole country for a ride around secterian circles. They never appear to trivialize many issues with very devastating long term implications. Reason? EXPEDIENCY, period.

And we haven't seen anything yet. We can continue whinning all the much we want but asking the 10th parliament to be objective is akin to attempt selling winter cloaks to the Berbers in the middle of Sahara desert.

People like Kagwe have disabused us of the cry and need of generation change. Him and his dad-in-law schooled decades apart but thing similarly when politics is at the table. We need a COMPLETE CHANGE and not Kiraitu's cosmetic radical change.

We are not off the hook yet as people will bandy economic growth and 'free' primary education. Well if we are abusing the e-age to sanitize rot then we shouldn't lift a finger at Moi because his cronies will tell he brought everything Nyayo including school milk. Except there were no bloggers to trumpet fimbo ya nyayo then. We are simply dishonest with ourselves. No amount of logical colouring will wash that away.

Anonymous said...

Chris as usual using the Media Bill to demonize President Kibaki. Dude get your facts right, Your candidates cronies were in parliament when the bloody thing was being debated. Infact one Otieno Kajwang seconded the amendments on clause 33. (need I say Njoki Ndung'u - Kikuyu- rose on a point of order!)The guy you are demonizing may as well be the person who get media guyz off the hook. One thing though, congratulations for your propaganda service, you would have warranted a job in Hitlers inner circles. Don't forget though that your competitors can unleash the same in full dose. In the meantime, January 1st is not that far away. The so called sick President will be sworn in for his second and last term. I will be here to remind you. The question will be where will you be? Will you be the next Ochuka? I rest my case

John Maina said...

anonymous kweli you are sick sorry to start my post like that. Why not stick to he issue rather than insult chris.

David Mwangi said...

Anonymous tafadhali wacha matusi, say your piece while keeping it civil.

This media bill is a very bad law because it could potentially be used to silence the media and wananchi. It is really a sad day for Kenya. From now on, if a Wanjiku has knowledge of critical information about an illegal thing or corruption deal involving some big short, she will definitely keep quiet for fear of being exposed. Occasionally, there are cases of libel, but the common good of wananchi far outweighs them. Kenyan media has serious issues, and their reporting is sometimes atrocious (personal opinion, EA Standard leads the way on this), but I'd rather the wananchi decide what to read and believe.

This bill was supported by both sides of the isle during its debate in parliament, in fact, the only MP on record who opposed the bad amendment during its debate was Njoki Ndung'u... clearly not an opposition MP. I therefore find it dishonest for Chris and the rest to bring partisan politics to this one.

derek said...

Anon, I feel that you have a very big problem. I have tried piecing some posts today and without even critically analysing them, I have arrived at a fact that they are sent by one man. To me, they are more personal that objective to Chris and the simple thing is, stop it!

What is all this Ochuka thing got to do with Chris? Chris is not Ochuka�s relative; Chris has nothing to do with Ochuka.

Why are you on two posts today, dragging the name of Ochuka? I am for once not proud of Ochuka, whether he had a reason to overthrow the government or not. The coup as it was, pulled Kenya back 20 years and is part of the economic problems that the country encountered in the 1980s and the 1990s. So, why don�t you just stop the coup talk for once and discuss matters of national importance. I will never respect someone who wants to overthrow the government and you need not look further than those linked to the coup to know what it meant to their families. Lives that will never be repaired.

If you have family or friends in the Scandinavian, kindly ask them to tell you about the people associated with the coup who fled there in 1980s. They lead lives you will never imagine. Miserable is a soft word. On that point, I wish to kindly urge for better, constructive arguments on the topic up here.

As for the media bill, I think that I can inverse Maoke Maore suggestion that the �monkeys have now been given the gun� i.e., the monkeys have now been given power to suppress the media. It is unfortunate that it will happen and any reader will draw to the 2003 case in the UK where a leading BBC journalist was forced to resign and a top adviser to the government committed suicide over the same sources argument.

But if we go back in Kenya, a journalist was forced by the courts to name her sources, something that drew editorial comments across the globe in the Gilbert Deya case to the amazement of scribes across the world. It was the first time that a court ordered someone to name sources. Chris and others in the business may know it that protecting the sources is one of the most important things in the business.

Now it is official and anything that will stop it rests with president, who, going by the actions on the Standard and others, will have very few reasons to veto it. That means, that from the day it will be assented, there will be no more �State House� sources, �impeccable sources, that will be the end of scoops and even worse, the end of ethics in journalism.

If it came a few years ago, The People Daily could not have been in existence, while the alternative press might never have seen the light of day.

Mutahi Kagwe has a reason to stop this as one who has grown in the media and should offer his support. Whether he is the son-in-law of who of close to who, he has to act with respect for the country�s journalism. This is a livelihood, a trade that is respected the world over and the only reason that has made Kenya what it is.

Anonymous said...

Derek, John, Taabu you are entitled to your opinions but I beg to disagree. The Fourth Estate has failed in its responsibility to act as a watchdog. I dare say the Media has been in bed with the political elite from day one. I find it ridiculous that they are all complaining about the Media bill. Fact one: Profits not journalism dictates coverage. Fact 2: The moment you have the elite as your official source (Primary definers) then you are compromised. Fact 3: Ownership of the Media house will also compromise journalism. In essence, it is a case of different elite groups fighting over supremacy, like in the case of Kenya. The bourgeoisie are just protecting their interest. All the media has to do is take sides, the person who oils my engine gets support. The common man is just but a spectator. Whether money is stolen or not through corruption practices is neither here nor there. Ask yourselves why did both sides of the divide support the bill? Good people we are stuck and we are stuck for a very long time, consoling factor is we are not alone, the same crap is happening all over the world. Floodgates are open start peeing on my thread.

luke said...

why should any democratically elected Govt on the face of this planet fear a free and independent media? Especially a Govt. that has made the economy grow(no tongue-in-cheek today for another day) and provided free primary education, as Mwalimu Taabu pointed out? wouldn't you instead do better to encourage the press to regulate themselves?

All over the world public figures have always been fair game for satire, but aside from poking fun at them, the media are part and parcel of opening up democratic space anyway let the president pass the law lets see if it will last

vikii said...

Anonymous I will start by offering my unreserved support to u. I have not seen anything abusive in ur articles. Believe u me I have seen more abusive posts right here. Ask them to quote specifically what they think is insulting and I bet u my corona they have no case against u. Just like those charges during Moi's time---'Engaging in subversive activities against the good government of Kenya'. U wonder what subversion means.

Having said that, I dont agree with your ruling that because the press have failed to be responsible in their coverage, they need to be monitored or regulated. That is repressive and u know it mr. Anonymous. If it were not for unregulated press, Anglo leasing which was by every standard a major-ass scandal, the Artur saga and many other government scandals would not have been unearthed.

Granted, the media has continued to use the loophole where they do not have to declare their sources to come up with some rather ridiculous stories. The Standard comes to mind when I type this. That "we can authoritatively report that..." line has in so many occassions turned out to be a big miss. However, that doesnt give the government any right to make an attempt at regulating the media. Let people choose what they want to read and this will surely edge the irresponsible media houses out of business. Just ask yourselves why the Nation sells hundreds of thousands of copies every single day and why a gutter publication like 'The citizen' sells only a handful. This means at the end of the day, only the media houses with well researched stories will be able to remain in business. Sometimes propaganda sells like hot cake but consistent propaganda doesnt.

The passing of the bill is, as some people have said a sad day for Kenya. It is like taking us back to the Njonjo days. It should be condemned in the strongest of terms. Let's attack the right people though----parliament. I cannot speak for Mwai Kibaki but I have faith in him. I am convinced Kibaki will not sign that bill into law.

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