New Law to Protect Kenyan MPs From Public Criticism

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Kenya’s Parliament has passed a new law to protect MPs from public criticism and restrict media coverage.

Under the new law, journalists who are found guilty of “scandalising Parliament” could be fined Sh500,000 (over £3,000) or face a jail sentence of up to two years.

 

Soaring corruption in Kenya

The new law comes after a wave of criticism from the public and media figures over the soaring corruption within Kenya’s government.

In August, an annual audit of government accounts revealed extensive mismanagement of public funds. Only 1.2% of the country’s budget was correctly accounted for, throughout 2013-14, while $600m (£380m) was entirely unaccounted for.

Uproar followed the findings and public criticism has been growing, with numerous activists, journalists and other public figures openly criticising the government.

 

A bid to silence the media

The new law aims to prevent further cases of public criticism, by threatening journalists with fines or prison time, if they’re found to be “scandalising Parliament”. Cases of corruption will be now be harder for reporters to cover, in a country where MPs are famous for awarding themselves high salaries and pocketing public funds.

MPs have overwhelmingly supported the bill, which will now become law unless President Uhuru Kenyatta opposes it. The Kenyan president has been accused by some of allowing the most corrupt political environment in the country’s history to emerge – an opinion people could soon be jailed for voicing.

A large portion of MPs claim that without the law, reporters are free to publish false information about them and tarnish their reputation. They claim journalists should be held accountable for their actions, like all other professionals, and largely support the bill.

There are some MPs who have called on President Kenyatta to not sign the bill, saying it would be a step backwards for Kenyan democracy, but their voices have been drowned out by the vast majority of support.

 

Featured image:

Parliament Buildings, Nairobi, Kenya -entrance-15April2010” by Jorge Láscar from Bogotá, Colombia – Parliament building entranceUploaded by Snowmanradio. Licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 via Commons.