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 repressive media law in Kenya. "This unequivocal attempt by the government to control the media is appalling", said Aidan White, IFJ General Secretary.
The new regulation provides that the bond executed by media publishers is increased from the current Kenya shillings 10,000 (US$128) to Kenya shillings 1 million (US$12,820). Failure to comply with the new law attracts 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. Publishers must also submit at least two copies of their publication to the registrar of Books and newspapers before going to the streets.
The IFJ denounces this move, which jeopardizes the survival of hundreds of publications and puts at stake the very existence of press diversity in Kenya. This situation is much alarming, in the light of the upcoming general elections. The EAJA coordinator, Martin Ocholi, perceives the law as "a deliberate and mischievous move by the ruling party and government to deny millions of Kenyans their rights to free speech". The Kenyan Union of Journalists (KUJ) and Ugandan Union of Journalists (UJU) also condemned firmly the application of the media bill. "It has become a culture for African governments and their parliaments to pass laws which are not only oppressive to the media, but also curtail press freedom", stated the UJU general secretary Stephen Ouma.
"The deteriorating situation of press freedom in Eastern Africa is a matter of great concern", said White. "The Kenyan government too easily took a step over the thin line between media policy and direct oppression", he added. "It now has the duty to step back and protect the press freedom which is guaranteed by the national constitution".