MPs vote to retain anti-media clause

By: JOHN NJAGI

MPs voted to retain a clause imposing heavy penalties for journalists covering Parliament, in case they published libellous material touching on the House.

Already, a mechanism exists to deal with journalists who report falsely or publish defamatory or libellous stories, through the Media Council.

The MPs would be entering in uncharted waters, and and the move effectively seeks to gag media reporting of Parliament.

The lawmakers voted overwhelmingly to retain the offensive clause even as they deleted one that required journalists to seek authority of the Speaker and committees’ chairmen before covering House and committee proceedings respectively.

FINE OR JAIL TERM

Section 34 of the Power and Privileges committee provides that a person who publishes any false or scandalous libel on Parliament, its committees or its proceedings or speaks words defamatory of Parliament its committee or its proceedings is liable to a fine or jail term.

It further states that a person convicted of an offence under the Act, for which no penalty is provided shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding Sh500,000 or a term of imprisonment not exceeding two years or both.

MPs who opposed deletion of the clause said they would be helpless if false reports were written about them, and that the offensive clause would hold journalists liable for what they report.