Media Bill: Two wrongs don’t make a right

The Media is crying, as usual, over the Media Bill. They are saying that the passed Kenya  Kenya Information & Communications (Amendment) Bill, 2013 if signed into law the President, then Kenya shall have made several steps backwards in relation to Media freedom and freedom of expression in general. Other issues that Media has over the Bill include:

  1. The Cabinet Secretary in charge of Information, Communication and Technology has powers to directly and indirectly control the media. This contravenes the constitution that requires no state agency or office shall control the media
  2. The Bill gives exclusive power to the Cabinet Secretary for Communications and Information to appoint members of the board of the proposed regulator to replace the Communications Commission of Kenya ~ Daily Nation
  3. The government having control CCK or a similar body will mean that the regulator works as a censorship agency for the government.
  4. A tribunal that will hear complaints both from the government and the media shall be appointed by the Cabinet Secretary and Judicial Service Commission.
  5. The fines demanded by the law that a failure by the media to adhere to professional standards are way too high. A tribunal working for the government and given powers to fine a media house up to Shs. 20 million if the media house fails to adhere to a professional standard is a money making mechanism.
  6. Though local content must be supported, frameworks for local content production must be put in place first before the media is demanded to provide 60% airtime to local content.

Despite the valid points the media have over the Media Bill, a number of Kenyans seem happy with the bill, calling on the Media to shut up as they chose to shut up during the March 4th General elections. They say that the media chose to go to bed with the Government hence they don’t have a right to complain about the bill. One of such comments reads:

“Free media is a necessity in any society, but when the media is corrupt, that means they have sold their freedom and as such are not essential to the society. The media have been reckless in the past and should therefore be controlled” ~ Paraphrased.

Similar comments have been posted on Twitter and Facebook but I beg to differ. The Media could have been corrupted, or compromised. Did you notice that we hardly hear of major scandals in the government anymore? One person once told me that it is not that corruption increased under Kibaki’s administration, but the exposure is what increased. It would therefore be likely that it is not that corruption has decreased since the new government took office, but that the Media has indeed gone to bed with the government. Another person also told me that it is not that men and women have decided to suddenly fall in love with the animal kingdom, but that it is the media that has shifted focus from reporting the real issues that affect us to petty issues like a man falling in love with a monkey.

If it is true that the media has indeed gone to bed with the government, that gives the government all the reasons and motives to want to control the media. You see if you go to bed with someone, especially a nosy someone, your secrets can no longer be safe. The only way the government can ensure that the nosy media does not smell a rat is to gag the media, and the government has the means to ensure that her secrets remain in the bedroom.

Some of us may argue that the media does not have the right to complain given their past mistakes, but if the media suffers, it is us that will suffer more. As patriotic Kenyans who want to protect not only our present hard earned rights freedom, freedom to express ourselves offline and online; in the streets and at home; as a people who want to continue receiving “unbiased” news, “objective” analysis of political and business events, and be able to criticize government policies that would otherwise be retrogressive, we should wake up in one voice and support the media at this hour of need.

But we should not just offer blind support. We need to also think and evaluate the reasons that could made the media find himself on government’s bed in the first place. I believe that we as a people scared the media when we decided to butcher each other after the 2007 general elections. When we decided to insult one another based on the language that one speaks, and blamed a group of innocent people for whatever predicament that another group of a similar language go through, the actions that made the media be part of ICC in the person of Joshua Sang, we allowed the media to be manipulated by the powers that be “for our own protection against ourselves”. Remember the peace campaigns during the last general elections?

When we as people shall rise up and love one another, love to receive only objective news from the media; that we shall wake up and demand quality commentaries from our news papers and corresponding reporters, then the media will have no option but to submit to what we demand. In a free market scenario, suppliers will only supply that which is demanded otherwise they are bound to learn bitter lessons which they will report as billions of loses.

Yes, we can’t support a draconian legislation despite the wrongs that the media could have done. Mr. President, don’t sign that damn bill.


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