A lobby group Kenya Correspondents Association (KCA) has called on members of Parliament and other media stakeholders to allow other stakeholders input before amending the media act 2013.

Speaking in Kisumu during a media forum that brought together journalists from Nyanza and Western Regions to discuss media and elections KCA Chairman Oloo Janak said that sidelining other stakeholders in discussing media issues will hurt the industry and subject journalists to harassment.

He addressed the concerns emerging in the media industry on legislative proposals that may undermine press freedom. 

“Our attention at Kenya Correspondents Association has been drawn to reported initiatives to amend the Media Act 2013, at the KEG convention in Naivasha this week, the MCK chairman Mr. Maina Muiruri was reported to have said that the proposed amendments are “good for the media industry,” said Janak.

He added, “We are surprised that he should say that when the purported proposals have not been canvassed by stakeholders and consensus reached,”.

The lobby group says that they are informed of the proposals that are before the Parliamentary Committee on ICT/Communications and if allowed to proceed it will hurt the media industry.

“To the best of our recollection at KCA, no proposals have been tabled before the media stakeholders to debate or add on before they are/were taken to the National Assembly,” said Janak.

He added, “There were certain proposals that were presented to the BBI Task Force but this  was not necessarily a consensus document and the BBI ship has since hit the rocks,”. 

He said that the Media Council of Kenya convened the meeting in 2019 to discuss the possibility of amending the Media Act. 

“During the meeting some serious media stakeholders including KCA were excluded and what was discussed during the Naivasha meeting was never disclosed up to date,” he said.

Janak said that the amendment of the Media Act 2007 to transit to the Media Act 2013 to align it to the Constitution 2010 and safeguard the independence of the MCK and the press was a protracted and painstaking process. 

“We petitioned the president not to assent to the Media Bill 2013 and the KICA Bill 2013 into laws and the president returned a memorandum to the National Assembly which led to the change of a few of the offending provisions but unfortunately the rest sailed through to the National Assembly without going through the Senate,” he said.

He said that as KCA and some of the media stakeholders, have urged that since the court ruling, that the industry undertakes a transparent and participatory initiative at amending the Media Act and other media laws.

“We are alarmed by the reported initiative to amend the Media Act quietly and in our opinion, suspiciously. We wish to ask and get clarification on who has initiated the process to amend the Act, what specific proposals have been made and why the industry has not robustly been involved?”. he posed.

He added “This direction must be avoided as it has the potential to drag the industry into controversy,  bring disunity and disharmony,”.

Janak further pointed out that “We must be alive to the dangers of initiating amendments to media laws in an election year because the state normally takes advantage of that to bring in provisions that are meant to undermine press freedom,”.

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