IFJ condemns repressive media bill in Kenya

The International Federation of Journalists, the world's largest journalist's group, and the Eastern Africa Journalist Association (EAJA), today expressed their strong concern regarding the adoption of a media regulation that has been passed in Kenya. "This law is repressive regulation that is potentially seriously damaging to press freedom", said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary.

On 8th May the Kenyan parliament passed the Statutory Law (Miscellaneous Amendment) bill 2002, making shocking amendments to sections affecting the media. The bill seeks an increase in the bond executed by media publishers from the current Kenya shillings 10,000 (US$128) to Kenya shillings million (US$12,820). Vendors who sell newspapers that are not bonded face a fine of KSH 20,000 (US$ 256) and/or a six-month jail sentence.

Publishers will also be required to submit at least two copies of their publications to the registrar of books and newspapers. Failure to comply will attract a jail term of three to five years, a 1 million shilling fine for first offenders and disqualification from owning or publishing a newspaper or magazine for repeat offenders. Newspapers vendors will be required to confirm that the publisher has met all the above requirements before accepting to sell a title.

"If the change is passed into law it will deal a devastating blow to the growth of media and freedom of the press in general", says Martin Ocholi, EAJA coordinator. "EAJA sees this move as a deliberate and mischievous attempt by the ruling party and government to deny millions of Kenyans their rights to free speech. Neither business nor professional significance can be served by this move", he added.

The IFJ has also strong reservations about the underlying motives of the government, regarding the recent legal challenges of politicians against several Newspapers. "Systematic attacks of the Kenyan government against its citizens' freedom of expression sketch a grim picture of the country, particularly in the light of the upcoming general elections", stated Aidan White.

The IFJ is calling on President Daniel Arap Moi to refuse presidential ascent to the law, and urges the government to stop its attempts to control the media under the guise of regulation.