Kenya: Concern about closure of parliamentary press centre

Publisher Article 19
Publication Date 13 June 2013
Cite as Article 19, Kenya: Concern about closure of parliamentary press centre, 13 June 2013, available at: [accessed 18 December 2018]
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ARTICLE 19 is concerned at the decision of the National Assembly to close the parliamentary media centre to build extra committee rooms. ARTICLE 19 believes this is likely to undermine the ability of journalists to report on the proceedings of parliament. The National Assembly should reverse this decision, or should urgently provide adequate alternative media facilities.

"Evicting journalists from the media centre raises serious questions about the National Assembly's commitment to creating an environment that encourages the reporting of parliamentary affairs to provide citizens with information about the day to day governance of the country" said Henry Maina, ARTICLE 19's Director for Eastern Africa.

"It has been public knowledge since 2010 that the 11th Parliament would have more than 120 additional members. The National Assembly should not boot out the media simply because they have failed to plan ahead for the entirely foreseeable demands on space" added Maina.

On 5th June 2013 a directive was issued by the National Assembly Clerk Justin Bundi, that ordered journalists to leave the media centre. The order stated that the media centre would be used to provide an extra two parliamentary committee rooms. In a ruling to the House, National Assembly Speaker, Justin Muturi, upheld the directive. Journalists are now only allowed access to the press gallery to report on Parliamentary proceedings.

ARTICLE 19 is also concerned by reports of a number of initiatives seeking to limit journalists reporting at the National Assembly.

An additional level of accreditation will be required for journalists who want to access parliamentary premises. Journalists must have accreditation from the Media Council of Kenya. In addition to this, media houses will have to notify Parliament of the names of their designated parliamentary reporters. Only these designated reporters will be allowed permitted entry to Parliament. ARTICLE 19 finds the need for double accreditation to be unreasonable and unjustified.

Journalists who have the required accreditation will now be blocked from accessing any areas of parliament unless the house or committee meetings are in session.

Parliamentary officials have begun enforcing an old decree banning the use of laptops and audio or visual recordings during live parliamentary sessions. This decree had not been enforced during the past two terms of government, in a show of transparency and accountability of Parliamentary proceedings. The current Government should continue with the same practice and repeal this decree.

ARTICLE 19 stresses that in order to report accurately on political developments and perform their vital role as a public watchdog, the media must be permitted to cover all parliamentary proceedings unless there are valid and demonstrable reasons to limit coverage of only certain sessions.

ARTICLE 19 notes that while an accreditation scheme may be genuinely necessary, it must impair the right of journalists to gather news as little as possible and be

Administered by a body which is independent from the government and follows a transparent procedure

Based on specific, non-discriminatory, and reasonable criteria published in advance

Applied only to the extent justifiable by genuine space constraints

An immediate ban on journalists without accreditation from accessing Parliament is an abuse of accreditation systems because it has been set up by Parliament itself and not administered by an independent body following a transparent procedure; has not been published in advance to give opportunity for compliance and is applied in a blanket fashion to all areas of Parliament not affected by any space constraints.

ARTICLE 19 calls on the National Assembly to revoke the eviction directive and give prior designated use of the media house back to journalists restoring an enabling environment for the media to perform without hindrance its critical role as a public watchdog.

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