Clause Won't Be Expunged But Amended, Says Kagwe.

Monday July 05, 2010 - 01:25:28 in English News by Super Admin
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    Clause Won't Be Expunged But Amended, Says Kagwe.

    Information and Communications minister Mr Mutahi Kagwe has defended himself against allegations that he is among the government officials who want to gag the media through the controversial Media Bill.

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Information and Communications minister Mr Mutahi Kagwe has defended himself against allegations that he is among the government officials who want to gag the media through the controversial Media Bill.

In an exclusive interview with the Sunday Nation, Mr Kagwe maintained that all the contentious issues that have been raised by the media will be resolved soon, but he urged politicians not to over-politicise the issue when they should have discussed it in the House.

He said that the Attorney-General Mr Amos Wako is allowed to make amendments to the draft and advise the President accordingly, since he is duty-bound to look at and interpret bills, especially contentious ones.

Considering the media outcry over a contentious clause that would require editors to disclose anonymous sources of information, the President has the option of returning the Bill to Parliament with a memorandum stating the required changes.

Mr Kagwe said Mr Wako will amend contentious clause 38 (4) in a way that will protect media sources.

He hinted that the clause might not be expunged as demanded by the media, but amended to give an appropriate reference that will reflect what the concerned parties have proposed.

On Thursday, the minister told journalists at a press conference that if the Attorney-General agreed that the courts could not order editors to reveal their sources, then the President would assent to the Bill.

Parties referred to

The contentious clause states that: "When a story includes unnamed parties who are not disclosed and the same becomes the subject of a legal tussle as to who is meant, then the editor shall be obligated to disclose the identity of the party or parties referred to."

But responding to assertions that the Bill would contradict Section 79 of the Constitution that protects the freedom of expression if it becomes law, Mr Kagwe said: "I don't think so.

 We have looked at all aspects of the law, but at the end of it all we want to promote responsible journalism." He argued that as a former media operator, he would like to see a free, prosperous and responsible media.

He maintained that before tabling the Bill, there were a lot of consultations between his ministry and the various arms of the media, particularly the Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ), the Media Owners Association (MOA) and other stakeholders, including committees of Parliament.

"The whole Bill was tabled to the media owners and all the amendments were included. 

However, as I had told them, their amendments were bound to change, subject to honourable members' wishes. But after the debate nothing was changed," the minister said.

He noted that blaming the Government for the Bill is not the solution to the problem. He added that the relevant parties need to work together to resolve the dispute over the Bill.

Professional conduct

On July 3, 2007, the minister told Parliament during the second reading that the aim of the Bill was to support the functioning of the media industry by providing mechanisms for setting an enduring professional conduct within the media.

It seeks to deal with the conduct and discipline and self-regulation of the media, he said. 

The minister pointed out that there had been a growing trend within the media to engage in unprofessional behaviour, hence the need for standards of the practice of journalism.

 He argued that this was also borne out of a public demand to create a He further argued that while the Media Council of Kenya has been in existence for more than 10 years, it has no legal teeth and has been unable to create the required regulations.

On publication of the Bill, issues were raised regarding the membership of the MCK, with the media taking issue with the earlier provision that its chairman be appointed by the Minister for Information and Communications.

Mr Kagwe said that the ministry has no particular interest in appointing a chairman for the MCK.

Fred Oluoch

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