By Nation, Kenya
President Uhuru Kenyatta will refer the controversial media Bill back to Parliament in the clearest signal yet that the controversial clauses in the proposed law would be struck down.
â€œWe admit the Bill is contentious. Discussions are underway between stakeholders to resolve the contentious issues,â€ Deputy President William Ruto said in Addis Ababa on Friday.
â€œThe President of Kenya has undertaken to refer the Bill to Parliament so that these matters can be ironed out,â€ Mr Ruto said, while addressing the African Media Leaders Forum, the largest industry gathering of the continentâ€™s media.
Kenyaâ€™s Parliament last week passed a controversial media Bill that has been criticised for provisions that risk eroding the countryâ€™s traditionally vibrant freedom of expression.
Less than a tenth of the countryâ€™s legislators were present during its passage, and the Bill is now pending before Mr Kenyatta, who has come under intense pressure not to sign it into law.
The Bill imposes heavy fines on media houses and journalists who fall afoul of its provisions, and also proposes a tribunal that could suspend or deregister such a journalist.
By law he can send the Bill back to Parliament for amendment, although a two-thirds legislator majority decision can override this.
Kenyaâ€™s media have threatened to go to court to challenge the lawâ€™s constitutionality if the controversial segments are not struck out.
BILL OF RIGHTS
Mr Ruto said the country had the most robust Bill of Rights, and that all would be done to protect it.
â€œRepression in Kenya is simply not possible,â€ he said, adding that the relationship between the government and the media need not be adversarial.
â€œFreedom of expression and freedom of the media does have its challenges, but given out history we do not see an alternative [to strengthening it],â€ he said.
The DP however called for African media to tell its own story as it was best placed to do so, instead of leaving this to western media.
Social media also represented a glorious opportunity for the African media to tell the continentâ€™s story.
â€œThe downside is that there is the small matter of what to do with new media â€˜assassinsâ€™â€ he said.
The Commission of the Implementation of the Constitution has said several clauses of the Kenya Information and Communications (Amendment) Bill are out of tune with the countryâ€™s supreme law.
Articles 33(1) and 34 (1 and 2) of the Constitution safeguard media freedom and the dissemination of information.
â€œWe are of the opinion that the Bill contains provisions which are unconstitutional and if enacted in its current state will inadvertently erode the gains made in the Constitution to ensure freedom of the media,â€ CIC chair Charles Nyachae was quoted as saying.