Africa

Kenya media: President Kenyatta signs 'draconian' bill

A newspaper vendor sells newspapers carrying headlines commending a new media bill on 1 November 2013 in Nairobi. Kenya Image copyright AFP
Image caption Kenya's media criticised the bill, saying it threatened democracy

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta has signed into law a media bill which journalist groups have condemned as "draconian" and an attack on democracy.

Last month, he rejected an earlier version of the bill as unconstitutional.

Parliament then approved a new bill, which the president has signed.

Despite the changes, it still sets up a quasi-government body with the power to impose fines which could cripple some media groups.

After parliament approved a second version of the bill earlier this month, a joint statement by the national editors' guild, Kenya's union of journalists and the correspondents' association described it as "a dark moment for Kenya's robust media environment".

The US-based Committee to Protect Journalists (CPJ) called the bill "draconian".

"These media laws will force journalists and news outlets to self-censor to survive. They are a severe blow to investigative reporting in Kenya," said CPJ East Africa representative Tom Rhodes.

The new bill still contains the provision that media groups can be find up to 20m Kenyan shillings (£140,000, $230,000) if they breach a code of conduct.

Maximum fines for individual journalists have been cut from 1m shillings to 500,000, but Beryl Aidi, from the Kenya Human Rights Commission, said that was still too high.

"[The changes do] not improve the bill... it does not improve the situation," she told the AFP news agency earlier this month.

Kenya's best-selling Daily Nation newspaper said the law ""creates a government-controlled body with power to punish journalists and media houses for their work"".

It said this would restrict press freedom and still contravened the constitution.

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