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Media Regulation: Lessons from Kenya Experience

Media Regulation: Lessons from Kenya Experience

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Published by Flava Radio Limited
Media Regulation: Lessons from Kenya Experience By Linus Gitahi CEO Nation Media Group
Media Regulation: Lessons from Kenya Experience By Linus Gitahi CEO Nation Media Group

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Published by: Flava Radio Limited on Apr 21, 2010
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02/01/2013

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MEDIA SELF
 –
REGULATION STAKEHOLDERS CONFERENCE
 
Media Regulation: Lessons from Kenya Experience
 Any visitor to Kenya would be impressed with the level of media freedom. Sometimesanything goes. There is no doubt that any that the media is growing and thriving under an atmosphere of freedom and openness that would have been impossible to imagineduring the single-party days. Democratisation brought withit unhindered freedom of speech, thought, association etc;that has not only been reflected in our sometimes chaoticand undisciplined politics, but also in the media. Sometimes
it’s
like a free for all, like anything can be published or broadcast without a thought to the truth, media ethics,common decency and good taste.
 
That is why we are the first to recognise that regulation is necessary.It is important to instil some discipline and professionalism; and tooperate within a code of practise and ethics in the Fourth Estate.
But we have always pushed for self-regulation, not governmentcontrol; and hence establishment of the complaints function withinthe Media Council of Kenya.We are not saying of course that everything is well. There have been some well-publicised violationsby the State, the most notorious being the invasion of Standard Group premises by maskedpolicemen in 2006.There have also been some unwarranted attacks and threats on the media by politicians or topgovernment administrators, but quite often these have been the actions of over-zealous individualsrather than official policy.The level of media freedom in Kenya has not been achieved without a fight and without perpetualvigilance.
By Linus Gitahi 
– 
Kenya
’ 
s NationMedia Group CEO givingConference perspective of Kenyan Experience
 
 
A look at the arena of media regulation in Kenya will reveal perpetual conflict between the industryand government.Sometimes this conflict is fought out openly and sometimes it is behind closed doors.We are constantly having to resist government efforts to control and contain the media through lawsand regulations that we see as oppressive and dictatorial.The latest instalment revolves around our opposition to a broadcast media regulations vide theKenya Communications Act.The media in Kenya feels that they were imposed unilaterally by the Minister for Information andCommunications in complete disregard of a regulatory framework agreed on in consultation withmedia stakeholders at a meeting presided over by the Prime Minister and the Attorney General.It is our position that the rules gazetted late last year are oppressive and open to abuse; intendedmore as a means of control rather than as an independent regulatory framework.We are also concerned that the ministry sneaked in under the cover of rules & regulations provisionsthat were rejected by the media and deleted from the principal Act, and even from earlier effort toinstitute media regulations going back to the mid-1990s.Perhaps here it is important to provide some history.The quest for media regulations in Kenya goes back to the mid-1990s.In 1995 the government published, without consultations and completely ignoring previousdiscussion with the industry, The Kenya Mass Media Commission Bill and The Press Council of KenyaBill.Actually those two Bills can be traced back to the early 1990s when the first serious steps to mediaregulation were seen.It might seem odd that steps to control (rather than regulate) the media coincided with the transitionto a multi-party regime.Prior to that, laws governing the media in Kenya were haphazard and fragmented in differentsections of Statute law, the Constitution and civil and criminal procedures.Many of them were inherited from a colonial regime that placed premium on curbing freeexpression, free communication and discordant voices. These legal curbs were happily inherited bythe independence government of Jomo Kenyatta and his successors Daniel Arap Moi and MwaiKibaki.
 
Even up to now the Constitution of Kenya (The prevailing one, not the proposed one), provides forfreedom of expression but makes no mention of freedom of press and other media; it also provideslimitations of the fundamental rights and freedoms under vague circumstances thus allowing forviolations of same rights. Thankfully, the proposed constitution is very explicit on the freedom of thepress.Today in this day and age we still have an Official Secrets Act. We also have regulations newspapers
publishers to pay a hefty “security bond” before they can go into business.
Even in the absence of all-encompassing media laws, disparate pieces of legislation in the past, andeven presently used to contain and hamper free media have included the:The Defamation Act, Cap 36;The Penal Code, Cap 63;The Books and Newspapers Act, Cap 111;Copyright Act, Cap 130;Preservation of Public Security Act, Cap 57;Public Order Act, Cap 56;Film and Stage Plays Act, Cap 222 (1962);
Chief’s Authority Act, Cap 128;
Official Secrets Act, Cap 187 of 1968;Police Act, Cap 84;Armed Forces Act, Cap 199;Communication Commission of Kenya Act of 1998;Kenya Broadcasting Act, Cap 221 of 1998,ICT Act of 2007; andMedia Act, 2007.The advent of democracy in the early 1990 came with a proliferation of the mass media, includingliberalization of the airwaves, and obvious needs for a regulatory regime.However in most cases it seemed that the government was more interested on control rather thanan independent regulatory mechanism.The Attorney General in 1993 set up the first Task Force on Press Law (Chaired by Weekly Reviewfounder and editor-in-chief Hilary Ngweno) to review and make recommendations on acomprehensive legal framework for the press and development of electronic media.Although the Task Force consulted closely with the media and produced a report that took intoaccount the views and needs of stakeholders, the resulting legislation failed to capture the spirit of the Task Force.The government published without consultations The Kenya Mass Media Commission Bill (1995) toregulate the operations of the mass media; and The Press Council of Kenya Bill (1995) for the

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