Tuesday, December 3, 2013

World News: Kenya journalists protest media bill

Kenyan journalists and civil rights activists are against monetary fines that lawmakers are trying to push through to stifle criticism, according to the Associated Press.

About 300 people marched to parliament and the president's office today, saying journalists are being pressured with monetary fines. David Ohito, vice chair of the Kenya Editors Guild, told the AP that journalists want changes to the Kenya Information and Communication Amendment bill. The bill states that the government can fine journalists up to $5,500 and media companies around $230,000 if the tribunal finds them guilty of breaching a code of conduct that stipulates the need for accuracy, fairness, independence and integrity, Ohito said.

And most journalists earn about $200 a month, according to the AP report. Ohito said parliament created the bill to target journalists in anger over media exposure after legislators gave themselves hefty raises soon after being sworn in this year. Kenya's newspapers and television stations also have focused on legislator pay and resistance to efforts to regulate their pay.

The Salaries and Remuneration Commission was created by Kenya's 2010 constitution to determine government salaries. Before that, legislators set their own pay. Kenyan legislators are among the highest paid in the world, earning more than $15,000 a month in salary and allowances, while the average Kenyan earns $1,500 a year, the AP reported.

Reporters believe if the bill becomes law it will shrink Kenya's democratic space. "They are targeting the media more because the media is the one giving space to all the other critical voices," said William Oloo Janak, chair of Kenya Correspondents Association, to AP.

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