Kenyan journalists protest media bill

Kenyan journalists, students and activists took to the streets of downtown Nairobi Wednesday with their mouths gagged in protest against a controversial government bill that could force media professionals to reveal their sources.

Kenyan journalists protest media bill
Kenyan journalists, students and activists took to the streets of downtown Nairobi Wednesday with their mouths gagged in protest against a controversial government bill that could force media professionals to reveal their sources.

With tape and zebra-print bandannas sealing their mouths and carrying colourful placards, the protesters walked silently down the capital's streets to the attorney general's office, to deliver a petition against the media bill and then to parliament.

"We are sending a message to the government that we are a voice. The government is trying to gag us so this is the best way to pass on that message," said Robert Nagila, a reporter with local station NTV.

Organizers said some 400 people attended the protest. The front row carried a big banner which read "protect our sources, say no to the media bill," while other protesters, marching arm in arm, held microphones wrapped in tape.

"When we reveal our sources, we are not being given the freedom to express the opinions of the public. We are being shut down," said Apolonio Ngaira, a 22-year-old journalism student.

The uproar over the media bill came just before it was passed by MPs earlier this month, when a legislator added a clause that could force journalists to reveal their sources should the story become the matter of a legal battle.

Proponents say the clause would enforce ethical journalism, but four lawmakers are challenging the bill in court.

The bill is in the hands of Attorney General Amos Wako, who Tuesday advised President Mwai Kibaki to consider amending it.

Once he receives it, Kibaki has 14 days to sign it into law or send it back to parliament to be altered. The protesters said their march intended to convince Kibaki to do away with the contentious clause.

Organizers said the demonstration was just the beginning of the "sustained pressure" the media was set to put on the government. A shutting down of radio and television broadcasts, as well as blank front pages on the country's major newspapers were part of the protest.

"When you muzzle the press, you don't get news," said an organizer who asked to remain anonymous.

Kenya, seen as one of the world's most corrupt countries, has a largely free press, particularly since the end in 2002 of the regime of former President Daniel arap Moi. Moi's government silenced dissent and arrested journalists who criticized his rule.

The uncovering of corruption scandals which have rocked the East African country was largely thanks to whistle-blowers and journalists say the bill could put an end to the media's watch on government graft.

Last year, the government sent masked men to the Standard media group, who burnt newspapers and shut down its printing plant and television station in an act that hearkened back to Moi's era.

Kibaki is set to run for a second term in general elections in December.


DPA
Last Mod: 15 Ağustos 2007, 19:24
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