BBI: Why Media Council of Kenya Needs to Be Constitutional Commission 

Press Freedom Violation on the Rise in Kenya

Kenya Media Sector Working Group (KMSWG) wants the Media Council of Kenya (MCK to be strengthened making it into a constitutional commission.

According to the group that comprises Kenya Editors Guild (KEG), Association of Media Women in Kenya (AMWIK), Kenya Correspondents Association (KCA), IREX among others, MCK should be given the status of Chapter 15 Constitutional Commission.

“Accord the body created by Article 34 (5) a Constitutional commission status. The MCK needs to be granted such independence including budgetary provisions through the Consolidated fund and making reports directly to Parliament not the Ministry as currently is the practice,” Mr. Churchill Otieno, President KEG said in his presentation to the Building Bridges Initiative (BBI) team on Tuesday.

KMSWG observed that some of the provisions in the legislations impinge on the freedom of expression and media freedom. Therefore, they proposed 3 constitutional proposals; 8 legislative changes and 4 administrative reforms for the BBI team to consider.

Harmonization of laws

They called for the harmonization of the Kenya Information and Communication Act, 1998 (as amended) and the Media Council Act, 2013 to differentiate and separate the mandates of the Media Council of Kenya which is for setting and enforcing media standards and for the Communication Authority as that of management of frequency spectrum, licensing broadcasting actors and general administration of communication infrastructure.

“We particularly ask for the repeal of provisions in Kenya Information and Communication Act(amended) that give Communication Authority regulatory functions over Broadcast content, which functions should, under Article 34(5) of the Constitution be performed by Media Council of Kenya. These include sections 46A and 46H of the Act.”

If not, “The broadcast media industry thus finds itself under two parallel regulatory regimes thereby occasioning an unnecessary paralysis in the sector,” Mr Erick Oduor, Kenya Union of Journalists told the committee.

As part of the challenges faced by the industry, the group further emphasized that the safety and protection of journalists remains a constant issue of concern. 

They note incidents in the recent past have seen some journalists assaulted while at work, face death threats and intimidation on account of their professional duty of collecting and disseminating information.

They called for mechanisms for safety and protection of Journalists, therefore, they need to be mainstreamed in initiatives and programmes concerning national security.

Media diversity and sustainability fund

They also called for the enactment of a law that shall create a media diversity and sustainability fund to be drawn from a basket fund supported by the Government and the industry. 

“This fund should be exclusively invested in media to cultivate a robust ecosystem. The functions of the fund may include supporting research that fostering innovation, provide affirmative funding, training, and capacity-building to ensure sustainable a media landscape as a tool for democracy.”

They also want the Kenya Broadcasting Corporation Act amended to make it a public service media to develop programmes that display national ethos, values and culture.

The group also proposed the need to implement Access to Information Act. They proposed a special prosecution unit to deal with impunity and crime against journalists.