The decisions by Members of Parliament to pass the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Bill 2014 is retrogressive and depicts a House hell-bent on taking Kenyans back to the old days when such draconian laws were exploited by the state to intimidate and harass the media in order to cover up for the ills in government.
However, in the wake of a new Constitutional dispensation that was promulgated in 2010, any law meant to take Kenya to the old dark days stands null and void since the National Constitution remains supreme to any other law and the Central Organization of Trade Unions, COTU (K) urges H.E. The President not to taint his hands by Assentingto a law that stands to remind Kenyans of the painful past and should instead refer the Bill back to Parliament for amendments and to be in conformity with our National Constitution.
A free and independent press is a very important component of any democratic country and as leaders we should accept all manner of criticism from any Kenyan including the media because this constitutes a free and democratic country where every citizen should exercise his/her freedom of expression undeterredjust as the Bill contravenes our very Constitution Article 34 that guarantees the freedom and independence of both electronic and print media.
The democratic space that Kenyans including our Members of Parliament (MPs) enjoy today was hard-fought-for and criticism of any kind is part of this space. Why should you as a leader fear scrutiny from the public whom you claim to represent? Then you have no business being in public life as a leader! As a country we risk degenerating into a new wake of the 1980s/90s detention without trials by passing such draconian laws and as Kenyans we will never ever allow any arm of government to take us through this route and the President should reject this law with the contempt that it deserves.
Equally, those MPs taking lead in fronting such retrogressive laws should prepare themselves fora resoundingdefeat come the next election since Kenyans and the media are watching and youcan’t claim to be a people’s representative when your pre-occupation is to pass laws that gag the media hence by extension the public then claim to be doing so in the interest of the people.
COTU (K) remains opposed to any move to frustrate the important role and the extra-ordinary work that the Kenyan media has played in the country’s social economic and democratic achievements and as a country we will continue to express ourselves freely under the sun since we have a Constitution to protect us and will fight to the hilt any attempts to introduce a regime that will want to take the country backwards and this fight will be in broad day-light since we have a Constitution that guarantees everyone the freedom of speech and expression for which as Kenyans do jealously guard against any form of mutilation as the MPs are trying with impunity.
In the meantime, COTU (K) has already written to the President in this regard and we remain optimistic the law won’t be assented to.
Francis Atwoli, EBS, MBS