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Last Updated: Friday, 10 August 2007, 10:50 GMT 11:50 UK
Kenya seeks advice on media bill
Kenya's President Mwai Kibaki
Mr Kibaki has had an uneasy media relationship since last year's raid
Kenya's government is seeking the attorney-general's advice over a controversial media bill that requires journalists to disclose their sources.

Information minister Mutahi Kagwe has asked the attorney-general to clarify the amendment, in what is seen as a move to defuse tension over the bill.

The amendment is awaiting presidential assent after MPs passed it last week.

Church groups, opposition groups and foreign diplomats have criticised the proposed law.

The information minister said that if the amendment was determined to be faulty, he would have no alternative but to ask the president to refer it back to parliament "to ensure that sources of stories are protected".

He assured Kenyans that the government had no malicious intentions towards the media.

 Bishop Eliud Wabukala (Picture from www.ackenya.org)
It is wrong for MPs to have passed the bill in the first place
Bishop Eliud Wabukala

Last year, in a widely condemned move, armed masked policemen raided the Standard newspaper's printing press and switched off its television channel, KTN, for allegedly inciting ethnic hatred.

On Thursday, the National Council of Churches of Kenya (NCCK) urged President Mwai Kibaki not to sign the bill into law, as it would erode democratic gains.

However, Kenya's Justice Minister Martha Karua has dismissed such criticism as mere propaganda.

Critics claim that the amendment is not representative of parliament, as it was passed by only 29 out of 222 MPs.

Bishop Wabukala urged Mr Kibaki not to sign the bill.

"It is wrong for MPs to have passed the bill in the first place, and we as church leaders ask [President Mwai] Kibaki not to sign the bill into law," NCCK national chairman Bishop Eliud Wabukala said.

Scandals

The clause states: "When a story includes unnamed parties who are not disclosed and the same becomes the subject of a legal tussle as to who is meant, then the editor shall be obliged to disclose the identity of the party or parties referred to."

Media owners say the law is unethical and unconstitutional as journalists have a duty to protect their sources, and that it would cripple investigative journalism.

They say that without such kind of stories, major corruption scandals such as Anglo Leasing and Goldenberg would never have been unearthed.

These scandals have embarrassed President Kibaki's government, which was elected on a pledge to fight corruption.

The opposition Orange Democratic Movement-Kenya has threatened to move to court to block the signing of the bill by President Kibaki.

Kenyans are going to the polls in December to elect a president and parliament.


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