The Kenya Communications (Amendment) Bill, and by extension the Amendment Act, 2008 has for a while variously been misrepresented as the “Media Bill”. In fact, there is a Media Act contained in the Constitution, passed in 2007.
The Act mainly establishes the Media Council of Kenya. It describes its membership, functions and powers. Within the Council, a Complaints Commission is established which deals with filed complaints against media entities.
What does it stipulate?
It’s an ACT of Parliament to “provide for the establishment of the Media Council of Kenya; for the conduct and discipline of journalists and the media; for the self-regulation of the media”.
Establishes the Media Council of Kenya whose functions are to:
- mediate or arbitrate in disputes between the government and the media, between the public and the media and intramedia
- promote and protect freedom and independence of the media;
- promote high professional standards amongst journalists;
- enhance professional collaboration among media practitioners;
- promote ethical standards among journalists and in the media;
- ensure the protection of the rights and privileges of journalists in the performance of their duties;
- advise the government or the relevant regulatory authority on matters pertaining to professional, education and the training of journalists and other media practitioners;
- make recommendations on the employment criteria for journalists;
- uphold and maintain the ethics and discipline of journalists as set out in this Act and any other relevant law;
- do all matters that appertain to the effective implementation of this Act.
- compile and maintain a register of journalists, media enterprises and such other related registers as it may deem fit;
- conduct an annual review of the performance and the general public opinion of the media, and publish the results thereof in at a least two local newspapers.
The Council is supposed to be operate independent of the Government. Its 13 members, appointed by notice of Gazette notice, are from various media and legal affiliates such as the Kenya Union of Journalists, Media Owners Association, Law Society of Kenya, Editors Guild, Kenya News Agency etc. The members are entitled to “reasonable allowances and disbursements for expenses”.
The Council is authorized to impose a levy on all media enterprises and an annual registration fee on journalists.
A Complaints Commission is established by the Council comprising of five persons, not members of the Council, to investigate complaints brought to the Council’s attention. The Commission may also establish conciliation, mediation and arbitration panels comprising of not less than three of its own members to “deal with, hear and determine any matter on behalf of the Complaints Commission”.
The Commission is empowered to require any person to give “reasonable assistance” in an investigation and to appear before it for examination if need be.
The Commission is not bound by rules set out in the Evidence Act and may set out its own procedure.
An aggrieved party may appeal to the Council which will either to vary, reverse or confirm the action from the Commission, provided it is filed within 14 days of the Commission’s decision. If a person is aggrieved by the Council’s decision, he may appeal to the High Court on a point of Law within 21 days of such a decision.
Applications by foreign journalists to practice in Kenya are approved by the Media Council.