Kenyan editors have declared a resounding No to the Media Bill, which bears a clause that – if enacted – would compel journalists to reveal the sources of stories, writes Lucianne Limo and Edith Fortunate in the East African Standard
In a display of solidarity, shared fate and vow to fight it to the bitter end, the senior editors meeting under the aegis of the Kenya Editors Guild also announced that they were sending a petition to the President not to assent to the Bill.
The representatives of all the country's private media houses declared the clause unconstitutional, inoperable and a product of reprisal attack on the media by those who perceive the industry to be their pet enemy.
The editors described any law that attempts to compel journalists to either incriminate themselves or the subjects of their reports as "unconscionable, inoperable and unconstitutional".
"This anachronistic law will not be observed and the President is advised not to assent to it," they declared. They also expressed readiness to meet the President to explain why they would not be party to the 'bad law'.
Search for a safe exit from controversial clause
In a joint statement read by Media Institute Director Mr David Makali at the Serena Hotel, Nairobi, the editors declared they would not name their sources as this would go against the grain of their ethics and professional practice. "On this we stand," they declared.
They stood their ground as Information minister Mr Mutahi Kagwe appeared to search for a safe exit from the controversial clause. He threw it back at the Attorney-General Mr Amos Wako, for a fresh look.
"If Wako says it is true, a judge or magistrate can interpret (to mean) that a source can be revealed, then we will ask the Speaker to see whether we can make a correction before moving further".
The minister said he was ready to ask the President to hand it back to the House before signing, if it turns out the contentious clause would undermine the freedom of the Press.
Kagwe noted that they were ready to petition the President to return the Bill to Parliament if the law does not allow the Speaker's consent to re-table the Bill for amendments.
"If the speaker's hands are tied, then we as Parliament or minister, will ask the President to return the Bill to Parliament to ensure that sources are protected," said Kagwe.
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