His Excellency President Uhuru Kenyatta,
President of Kenya,
20 December 2013
We are writing on behalf of the World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers (WAN-IFRA) and the World Editors Forum, which represent 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries, to express our serious concern at the signing into law of the Kenya Information and Communication (Amendment) Act and the Media Council Act, which threaten to silence critical reporting through the establishment of a government-controlled regulatorand the introduction of a system of heavy fines for press offences.
According to reports, the legislation, which was approved by the National Assembly on 5 December, has now been signed into law. The new laws establish a Communications and Multimedia Appeals Tribunal to draw up a code of conduct for the press. The Tribunal has the power to impose fines on offenders and bar journalists who breach the code from working. The bill also introduces strict controls on broadcasters, with radio and TV stations obliged to ensure that minimum local content requirements are met.
We are seriously concerned that the sweeping powers contained in the legislation will have a negative impact on freedom of expression in Kenya and in other parts of Africa; the introduction of such retrogressive press legislation provides a model for other African governments seeking to silence criticism.
We respectfully remind you that in May, the Pan African Parliament – of which Kenya is a member – approved the Midrand Declaration on Press Freedom in Africa. The Declaration draws on a variety of African protocols, articles and declarations, including Article 9 of the African Charter on Human and People's Rights and our organisations’ Declaration of Table Mountain, which calls for greater press freedom in Africa.
We respectfully call on you to reconsider your acceptance of the new laws and to take steps to rescind the legislation. We urge you to do everything in your power to ensure that your country’s laws fully respect the letter and spirit of the Midrand Declaration and Kenya’s other international obligations to freedom of expression.
We look forward to hearing from you at your earliest convenience.
World Association of Newspapers and News Publishers
World Editors Forum
WAN-IFRA is the global organisation for the world’s newspapers and news publishers, with formal representative status at the United Nations, UNESCO and the Council of Europe. The organisation groups 18,000 publications, 15,000 online sites and over 3,000 companies in more than 120 countries.