Since December 11th, 2008 sections of the media and some human rights groups have been very vocal about how press freedoms will be curtailed by the passing of the Kenya Communications (Amendment) Bill 2008 in the House. After January 2nd 2009 when the Bill was enacted, the story has been pinned as front page news by virtually all media houses.
The BBC had this to say of the Bill recently signed into Law:
The law gives the Kenyan authorities the power to raid media offices, tap phones and control broadcast content on grounds of national security.
That is not accurate. The Bill does not confer that authority. I think sections of the media are painting the wrong picture in saying that the amendment Bill is ‘draconian’ when the very clauses they are quoting are of the Act that was assented to in 1998! In fact, the Bill did not amend any existing clause in the controversial Sections 88 – 92 of the Kenya Communications Act 1998.
The only section in the amendment Bill that I find is a major cause for concern is 46H:
I think these are powers that the CCK does not need to have. Despite the redeeming clause that the “licensee is a member of a body” approved by the Commission, they should not interfere with programming to begin with; that should be left to the Media house.
Having said that, I think that the CCK should still have some level of oversight over broadcasting content. There should be a process stipulated to review content on a case-by-case basis should it be deemed appropriate, for instance where lurid and other objectionable content is aired on TV or Radio, and there should also be a path for legal redress for those under review. The Federal Communications Commission (FCC) has a similar approach in the United States.
So I understand the need for the Kenyan media to keep up the pressure on Government to address issues on freedom of the press, but in doing so they should present the facts correctly.
The amendment Bill introduces much needed regulation for the ICT sector, especially with regard to electronic transactions. Other less contentious issues exist, like mobile phone reprogramming which is debateable.
Now the focus needs to turn to the newly minted Act – perhaps not repealing the Amendment Bill, but rather introducing a new Amendment Bill to address Sections 88 – 92.