Monday, August 20, 2007

The Sound of Silence

I am sure much of you are aware of the recent Media Bill tabled to President Mwai Kibaki in Kenya.

For those of you who have not yet ‘heard’ about it, I will briefly outline it. The proposed bill requires journalists and reporters to reveal an anonymous source if a libel suit is initiated. The fear is, that the government will have free reign in the censure of ‘unflattering’ stories, thus, virtually eliminating the possibility of stories from whistle-blowers, which is how the majority of investigative pieces are obtained.

Mitch Odero, a member of the sub-committee of the Kenya Editors' Guild told Inter Press Services (IPS) that “n the event that the bill is signed, if a journalist is sued for libel he or she will be forced to name their sources, who will be arrested. Leaders will have it easy: they will bang journalists with civil suits, and there will be no defence for journalists”

Kenyan Journalists are horrified by the potential repercussions of this bill and are battling hard to stop it from being passed. In fact, Kenyan Journalists held an unprecedented ‘silent protest’ against the bill on Wednesday the 15th of August. Journalists marched to the office of the Attorney General with a petition urging the President not sign the bill. With their mouths gagged and taped, and brandishing placards they marched in the hundreds in solidarity against the oppressive media bill.

I feel compelled to give my personal view on this march. I believe it was a proud moment in Kenyan civil society. It is demonstrations like these that show the government that the people will not stand in passivity and watch their civil liberties crumble away, but that they will fight them until the end.

I think Tanzanian activists and journalists can learn a thing or two from this act of free expression, as we are ridiculed and our intelligence insulted on a daily basis.

Isn’t it time we speak out?

See pictures of the Kenyan Protest Below (Courtesy Al-Jazeera)


wayne said...

WOW - just about the time one begins to think that there is real progress in Africa on the "freedom of the press" front, the Kenyan Parliament pulls a boneheaded move like this. Of course this actually began quite some time back and showed itself when the police illegally raided the offices of (was it "The Standard" ?, or some other - I should have done my homework) of a paper and TV station in Nairobi.
A person only builds a fence around their house if they have something to protect - makes one wonder just how much the MP's and others think they have to protect by building this fence of protection around themselves to keep out the "snooping eyes & ears" of journalists? Kenyan journalism was a shining light of "information to the people" in East Africa - now it seems an attempt is being made to zima moto of journalistic freedom in Kenya. Should be a warning and wake up call to journalism all over E. Africa

Black Shepherd said...

the question is, what can we do to stop it?

wayne said...

just FYI - I just read where Kibaki has chosen to NOT sign this bill and is going to refer it back to Parliament - maybe a good thing - but also maybe just a way to deflect attention for now. It was under his watch that the Standard raids occurred with no apologies or explanations - lots of smoke screens is my guess.

africanloft said...

Congratulations, your voices were loud enough! This is one protest that worked. I'm proud.