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Published:August 11th, 2007 06:45 EST
Kenyan Media Bill Passed

Kenyan Media Bill Passed

By Francis Karugah

A new bill that was passed by the Kenyan parliament is causing ripples in the country. The bill is called the media bill, which aims to control the Kenyan media and in the words of the Kenyan information minister to ensure responsible journalism.

The bill contains many clauses among them the mandate to appoint a council to take the role of the media council of Kenya. However, the most controversial is the clause that was slipped in at the last minute by a Kenyan mp that seems to have a grudge against the media (he sued for defamation 10 years ago and lost).

The clause, if not removed would mean that journalists will have to name their sources in situations where litigation is sought. A potentially dangerous clause but the Kenyan government supports it. Mutahi Kagwe, a former journalist, minister for information and the chief architect of the bill says it is good for all. Another minister, Martha Karua who had her share of controversy with the media when she sought to censure a top radio personality in the country four years back (she lost that battle) says the bill is what the Kenyan media needs. However, the bill has been returned to the attorney general for legal guidance. 

This was after protests in the city led by members of the civil society as well as advertisements running in the media, which addressed the president in regards to the risks the bill will have concerning the fight to reduce corruption. The bill heavily relies on information from members of the public. Journalists themselves state that they would rather go to jail than reveal their sources.  Even envoys in the country have criticized the bill.

Most people say the bill contradicts the witness protection act, which was passed to protect whistle blowers in a country where corruption is widespread and shady deals are the order of the day.

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