New Media Bill an attack on Kenya’s Constitution: ICPC

The International Centre for Policy and Conflict (ICPC) has protested against the passage of the Kenya Information and Communication (Amendment) Bill on Thursday by the National Assembly.

In a statement, ICPC Executive Director Ndung’u Wainaina said that the Bill passed by the National Assembly was a direct attack on the Constitution arguing that its constitutionality has to be challenged in a court of law.

“Media freedom and freedom of expression were at the heart of the Constitutional reforms struggle. Kenyans constitutionally secured freedom of media as an integral core pillar of the Bill of Rights,” said Ndungu.

Ndung’u said that the Constitution of Kenya gave every person the right of access to information, held by a public or private body that was required for the exercise or protection of any right.

“The High Court of Kenya has made judgments on this crucial matter.  Further, the world over access to information regimes are fast gaining momentum,” said Ndung’u adding that while Kenya, deemed as an emerging democracy, was making horrendous errors, Sierra Leone Parliament was busy passing a very progressive Freedom of Information Bill.

Ndung’u said that it was of great concern to anyone who values a free media and access to information when the government attempts to introduce controls to free flow of information and coverage of sensitive topics or stop the broadcast of certain items because it disagrees with the message.

He said that a commitment to a strong and enduring democracy embraces free media and flow of information, which in turn strengthens and builds confidence in the government.

“There has been a systematic claw back on crucial provisions of the Constitution through passing half-baked and watered-down pieces of legislation and executive directives intentionally.  This Information and Communication (Amendment) Bill is yet another step towards that direction,” said Ndung’u.

According to Ndung’u, an appropriate Freedom of Information law would remove culture of secrecy in state and private institutions, seeking instead, to foster a culture of transparency and accountability.

He stated that such law is useful to educate Kenyans on their rights and enabling them to participate in decision-making that affects their lives daily.

“Participation in democratic processes can only be effective if it has informed participation. The responsibilities of public and private bodies to provide information under the law are not intended to be a costly burden but an essential mechanism to ensure good governance and the transformation of the society,” said Ndung’u.

Ndung’u said that creating a multiplicity of institutions tackling the same issues of information and communication is unnecessary and a waste of public resources.

“A free, secure and independent media is one of the foundations of human rights, security and development. Attacks on freedom of the press are attacks against international law, against humanity, against freedom itself, and against everything that human value stands for,” argued Ndung’u.

Meanwhile, Wiper Democratic Leader Hon. Kalonzo Musyoka has criticized the 11th parliament for passing a draconian media law which among other things is meant to curtail the media from exposing the excesses within and without the government as well as financially sabotage.

Kalonzo termed the actions of the National assembly as retrogressive to this nation which has worked tirelessy to have a free and vibrant media as the eye of wananchi.

Kalonzo made the remarks on Friday when he joined mourners who turned up to bid farewell to veteran journalist Joel Nzau Kalulu at his farm in Kitundu, Mbooni West constituency Makueni County.

He said media plays a pivotal role in informing the masses of the happenings both locally and internationally, thus it deserves freedom which was enshrined in the 2010 constitution.