Men behind draft law that could gag Press if enacted

The fate of the Kenya Communication (Amendment) Bill that seeks to gag the media now lies with President Kibaki.

To become law, the President must assent to it, but he has the leeway
to return it to Parliament with a memorandum explaining the reasons for
rejecting it.

The President has not publicly commented on the Bill, but he has in the
past assured Kenyans that his Government would protect the freedom of

Other key personalities involved in drafting the Bill include Information and Communication Minister Samuel Poghisio.

Incidentally, almost all personalities involved have at one time of the other operated in the media or related sectors.

Mr Poghisio was a Communications lecturer at Daystar University before
he joined politics and eventually landed the job of minister this year.

He was among MPs who opposed the amendment of Section 88 of the Bill
that allows the Internal Security minister to seize broadcast equipment
and shut down a media house when he believes they threaten national
security during emergency.

Poghisio said the Government had no intention of raiding any media house.

"We do not raid stations any more and the Government has no intention of doing so,'' said Poghisio.

After his appointment to the current docket in January, Poghisio
assured media houses that he would be a champion of Press freedom but
his defence of the new Bill shows a complete turn-around.

Karachuonyo MP James Rege, the chairman of the Parliamentary Committee
on Energy, Communication and Transport, had proposed that the offending
section be deleted. Mr Rege is trained in ICT and is a former PS in the
Ministry of Information and Communication.

He was appointed PS in 2004 and was sacked a year later after the
referendum debacle that saw the Government side lose to a combined
opposition. Last year, he contested the General Election and won the
Karachuonyo seat on an ODM ticket. He became the chairman of the
parliamentary committee that audits the Information and Communication
ministry that is behind the Bill.

Another key player in the draconian Bill is the Information and
Communication PS Bitange Ndemo. Dr Ndemo took over from Rege in 2005
and has held the docket to date. Like Rege, he is an expert in ICT with
extensive training locally and abroad.

Before he became PS, he was a senior lecturer at the University of
Nairobi's Business School. Ndemo has been credited with many
achievements in the ministry, but it was during his watch that the
infamous raid on The Standard Group was carried out.

Information Director Ezekiel Mutua, a former secretary-general of the
Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ), is the other player in the
contentious Bill. Mr Mutua was appointed to the position last year and
immediately locked horns with the media.

His lowest moment came in February when he threatened to disband the
Media Council of Kenya, (MCK) saying it was undermining his ministry.

MCK had set up a task force to audit how the media covered last year's
General Election, a move that angered Mutua who said his ministry had
appointed a team for a similar task.

He said MCK's move was calculated at frustrating the work of the ministry team.

Mutua is infamously remembered for the bungled Journalist of the Year
Awards that destroyed the integrity and reputation of KUJ when he was

By Joseph Murimi

Post published in: Uncategorized

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