President Uhuru Kenyatta vetoes Kenya media bill

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

Kenya's President Uhuru Kenyatta has rejected a controversial media bill passed by parliament that would have imposed regulation on journalists.

Last month, MPs voted to set up a tribunal with the power to impose fines on media houses and journalists for breaching a code of conduct.

It provoked a furious reaction from Kenya's independent media.

The president's office said it was the first time Mr Kenyatta had used his veto since he took office in April.

The Kenyan media is currently regulated by the Media Council of Kenya, an independent body which has a complaints department that the bill proposed would be taken over by a new government-controlled communications tribunal.

"The many provisions of the bill go against the constitutional requirement that the tribunal proposed should be independent of commercial, political and government interests," a statement from Kenya's State House said.

The statement noted that the bill "contains penal consequences, including a fine of not more than 20m Kenyan shillings [$230,000; £140,000] that can be meted against a media institution for breach of code of conduct".

"The president recommended that some of the sections be deleted and changes be made to the bill to reflect the constitutional threshold," it said.

Correspondents say there have been several attempts by lawmakers to introduce new media regulation in Kenya; two years ago it caused such an uproar that in the end ex-President Mwai Kibaki refused to sign a bill into law.

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