Kenya: Proposed Amendments to Parliament Standing orders must be dropped

Kenya: Proposed Amendments to Parliament Standing orders must be dropped - Media

ARTICLE 19 is concerned by suggested amendments to standing orders regarding media activities in the precincts of Parliament, proposed by the joint Parliamentary Committee on Broadcasting and Library.

We call upon the Senate and National Assembly to reject these proposals, and uphold the freedom and independence of the media, as articulated in Article 34 of Kenya’s constitution.

“We call upon parliament to reject the proposed amendments to the standing orders. They are not in the public interest and if passed, they will unjustifiably limit freedom of expression, which is already under severe pressure in Kenya,” said Henry Maina, ARTICLE 19’s Eastern Africa Regional Director.

If these proposals were adopted, requests to conduct media related activity would be handled by the Speaker of the Senate, or the Speaker of the National Assembly.

Parliamentary reporters are currently accredited by the Media Relations Office, who issue photo identity cards and grant access to the precincts of Parliament for the purposes of covering interviews and committee meetings. However, the new proposals would remove this mandate, and place it with the Speaker of the Senate or National Assembly. The proposals furthermore suggest that the Speakers themselves should ensure that media activities comply with standing orders, and that media activities serve an educational, cultural, or news purpose.

Under the proposals, cameramen and photographers would be required to report to the head of security before they could take photographs or videos, as well as requiring the prior permission of the person they are filming or photographing.

Violation of the new restrictions could result in denial of access during a sitting day, suspension of an individual’s pass for a day, denial of access to the press gallery for three days for a media house or any other penalty the Speaker may deem fit. Repeated violations could result in a one-month suspension for the media house, or suspension of the individual’s pass for the same period.

ARTICLE 19 is concerned that these proposals would unduly restrict freedom of expression and journalists’ right to collect information. The requirement that media activity within Parliament should serve an educational, cultural or news purpose constitutes an excessive restriction on media content contrary to Article 34 (2) of the Constitution which protects media from external interference and control.

ARTICLE 19 opposes vesting Senate and National Assembly Speakers with powers to approve media activity and impose sanctions. Furthermore, the proposed sanctions are disproportionate and could be misused to prevent critical or independent journalists from publishing what is happening within the precincts of Parliament. This concern is reinforced by lack of clarity on the process for arriving at a decision regarding sanctions, and whether there is any appeal process.

ARTICLE 19 recommends that complaints of unprofessional conduct should be handled by the Media Council of Kenya, which enforces journalists’ code of conduct.


FOR MORE INFORMATION:

Please contact Henry Maina, Director, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa

henry@article19.org

or +254 727 862330