Journalists’ unions have pointed out the implications of the Powers and Privileges Bill adding that the contentious clause 34 in the Bill will not only clump down on the mainstream media but also social media users.
In a statement to newsrooms on Thursdya, Kenya Union of Journalists, Kenya Editors Guild and the Kenya Correspondents Association said that they are appalled by the Parliaments’ decision to pass the contentious Clause 34 of the Bill which proposes a Ksh 500,000 fine or a 2 year jail term for any person who publishes any article deemed defamatory to Parliament.
“Not only are journalists in peril for doing their jobs, but citizens of Kenya who uses social media and other platforms to question the work of their representatives will also end up in prison of simply exercising their constitutional rights,” read the statement.
The unions termed the contentious provisions in the Bill as draconian and unconstitutional saying they will go to any lengths to safeguard the right of Kenyans to know and freedom as their messengers and watchdogs to inform them.
“The Bill as passed is unconstitutional and contravenes Articles 33, 34 and 35 of the Constitution which entrench freedom of expression, freedom of expression, freedom and independence of media and the public’s right to information.”
The media said the move is an affront to the hard-earned democratic space and an attempt to roll back the gains of democracy.
“What are the Members of the National Assembly so afraid of? Is this an attempt to shield members from scrutiny by the very people who put them in office?” Questioned the unions.
They pointed out that the media has been instrumental in keeping a close eye on the National Assembly which has been on the spot for abuse of office, corruption and extortion.
“Some members of the house have been caught with their hands m public purse, including filing false mileage claims of up to Sh2 million a month per individual,” they said.
The controversial clause was passed on Wednesday causing an uproar among media stakeholders and Kenyans.
The press has prompted House speaker Justin Muturi to recommit the bill to allow for consultations on contentious issues.
Speaking in parliament on Thursday, Muturi reiterated his statement, made last month, that he will not allow the Bill to pass with the clause that will gag the media.
Adan Keynan had earlier reneged on his earlier promise to withdraw the clause by presenting the bill to the committee of the whole house, inclusive of Clause 34 where it was passed.