Be Careful What You Wish For…

4 Min Read

Over the past month, Kenya’s media has been up in arms over a controversial media legislation, passed on 31st October 2013,  that sought to pass oversight of media, from the media controlled Media Council of Kenya, to a proposed tribunal appointed though parliament. These  media stakeholders, together with activists and even foreign diplomatic missions called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to refer the bill back to the house as a rejection of hose, as well as other repressive changes to media regulations that the bill contained.

Well, after one month of thinking it over, the president did finally send the bill back to the house. However his veto, instead of addressing what issues the media stakeholders had raised over the preceding month, appear to push the bill even further down the sate oversight of the media concept that he original amendment bill had started down.

In his proposal, instead of having a government appointed oversight authority, whose members would be subject parliamentary vetting and oversight, the president suggests that there be a government appointed oversight authority which will be staffed by people hand picked by, and answerable pretty much only to the executive branch of government. The hefty fines on individual journalists and media houses remain intact. The ability to strike off journalists remains with the newly proposed body were largely untouched

Seeings as the basis of the opposition to these sections of the bill is that the very existence of such a government controlled oversight authority, never mind the kinds of powers it has, is unconstitutional, the nature of the president’s referral pretty much defeats the whole point of media stakeholders, political activists, and foreign diplomats asking the president to refer said bill back to parliament in the first place.

In brief, rather than address the concerns of Kenya’s media industry in the draft law, the president used his veto powers to restate that, he is  emphatically for the kind of draconian supervision of the media that parliament had set out in the bill, and that at the end of the day, the government will likely pass a law with provisions designed to allow government direct influence over the media’s output.

That’s not even addressing a second media related amendment bill on the floor of the house, or proposed changes to funding of NGOs, presently being debated by on the floor of the house which seem to be sourced from the same vindictiveness that the state is dealing with these institutional guarantors of democratic accountability.

All in all it seems that Kenya’s new self declared ‘digital’ government of the future is pretty hell bent, on reconstructing the all powerful, all controlling , all knowing, ‘baba na mama’ (father and mother) state which, Kenyans spent a lot of energy dismantling.

Nonetheless this is the democratically elected government that approximately 50.08% of Kenyans elected in March 2013, and aren’t we getting ‘what we wished for.’


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