Thursday, February 06, 2014

Kenya: Journalists win court victory against repressive media laws

5 February 2014
Freedom House

Freedom House congratulates the Kenyan media on an initial court victory against two repressive media laws passed in December 2013, and urges the Kenyan government to uphold its commitment to a free and independent media.

In response to cases filed by Kenyan journalists' associations and media houses, a three-judge panel of the High Court in Nairobi on January 31 halted implementation of the Media Council Act 2013 and Kenya Information and Communications (Amendment) Act 2013 until the full Court considers the legal questions. The cases allege that the laws violate Article 34 of Kenya's constitution, which guarantees the media sector protection from government influence. According to groups' lawyers, the new statues will limit media freedom, freedom of expression, and ultimately the exercise of democracy by Kenyan citizens.

“Kenya's constitution guarantees freedom of the media and declares that the state will not interfere with or exercise control over it,” said Vukasin Petrovic, director of Africa programs at Freedom House. “These laws clearly infringe on that right and will erode the basic foundation of Kenya's democratic system. Strong, independent media are cornerstones of any democracy.”

The lawsuits highlight the laws' improper expansion of power for President Uhuru Kenyatta, by allowing the executive branch to function as a legislative organ. Kenyatta revised previous versions of the laws, and the final statutes include his changes.

Freedom House supports the continued efforts of Kenya's media to protect citizens' rights to freedom of expression and information, and urges the Kenyan government to respect the media's constitutionally-guaranteed independence. Freedom House strongly encourages the High Court to strike down these attacks on a sector vitally important to Kenyan democracy.