A clause in the Media Bill that requires journalists to disclose their sources would deal a deathblow to media practice and erode all the democratic gains Kenya has made, writes Joseph Murimi in the East African Standard

The chairman of the Parliamentary Committee on Constitution and Legal Affairs, Mr Paul Muite, said State agents keen on controlling the media introduced the contentious clause into the Media Bill.

He said the fact that Information minister Mr Mutahi Kagwe was in Parliament when the Bill was passed and did not object to the clause meant that key Government operatives supported it fully.

Muite said asking journalists to disclose their sources was like asking police to identify their informers.

The MP said if police were to be required to identify their informers the war on crime would be lost because they would never get the critical criminal intelligence they need to succeed.

Muite said the same case applies to journalists, adding that the clause was clearly aimed at stifling media and the practice of journalism.

He said once the Bill becomes law all sources of information for journalists will dry up because they will be afraid of being identified.

Media a necessary evil

Muite said senior officials such as financial controllers and auditors gave out most information on corruption and other malpractices in Government on condition that they are not identified.

He asked President Kibaki not to assent to the Bill and instead send it to back to Parliament for further debate and ultimately its repeal.

He said the Constitution allows the President to return the Bill back to Parliament with a memorandum of the changes he wishes to be effected.

Muite said this period should be used to cool off saying MPs should not pass laws because of their emotions, but should reflect on what they are bequeathing the country.

"Nobody likes media scrutiny, even I. But they are a necessary evil that holds people to account. We cannot have genuine democracy unless media are allowed to operate freely," Muite said.

He also said a clause in the Kenya Communications Commission Amendment Bill that requires Internal Security minister to close down a media organization over alleged threat to security should also be repealed.

Muite said the two Bills are classic examples of laws used by regimes to maintain power.

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