KENYA will score a major first in the East African region if its citizen's approve the proposed draft constitution,whichÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â for the first time enshrines the Freedom of the media in the country's supreme law, writes Dennis Itumbi for journalism.co.za.
That's not all, the Freedom of Information act, delayed and still pending in parliament through successive regimes has been included in the constitution.
Even state-owned media have their editorial content guaranteed of independence from the government of the day.
"All State Media shall, be free to determine independently the editorial content of their broadcasts or other communications, be impartial and to afford fair opportunity for the presentation of divergent views and dissenting opinions."
According to an exclusive copy of the yet to be published draft constitution, availed to journalism.co.za by a highly placed source in government and affirmed as the true copy by two members of the committee of experts that drafted it, media freedom will be part of the bill of rights.
The proposed article 51 says, "freedom of independence of electronic, print and other media of all types is guaranteed."
It goes on to guarantee the freedom thus, "The state shall not, exercise control over or interfere with any person engaged in broadcasting, the production or circulation of any publication or the dissemination of the information by any medium."
Adding, "The state shall not penalize any person for any opinion or view or the content of any broadcast, publication or dissemination."
In a landmark move by a government that has had its share of running and intellectual battles with the media, passage of the bill will be aÃƒâ€šÃ‚Â major achievement.
Not even licensing procedures have been spared in the effort to ensure a free press is part of Kenya's culture and governance, "broadcasting and other electronic media have freedom of establishment, subject only to licensing procedures that are independent of control by government, political interests or commercial interests."
On media regulation, the draft constitution reads, "Parliament shall enact legislation that provides for the establishment of a body which shall, be independent of government or political control, reflects the interests of all sections of the society and sets medis standards and regulate and monitor compliance with those standards."
The draft then adds, "Every citizen has the right to access, information held by state and any information that is held by another person and that is required for the exercise or protection of any right or fundamental freedom."
The government will further be forced to inform the nation of all crucial information, "the State shall publish and publicize any important information affecting the Nation."