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January 17, 2019

Why It Is Wiser For Uhuru To Reject Than Sign The Media Bill

As Kenyatta defined his rule with capitalist independence, Moi with one-party dictatorship, Kibaki with ICC trials, Uhuru might define his rule with oppression of NGO and media laws that he might sign for the following reasons.

First, oppressive media bills could not have passed through drafting, Cabinet and National Assembly without the president’s or his minister’s knowledge. These bills are meant to strengthen Jubilee government.

Apart from governing Kenya, President Uhuru is also fighting ICC and could be asking all manner of prophets whether he will win or lose.

In the Bible, when King Ahab wanted to wage war against Ramoth Gilead, he asked 400 prophets: “Shall I go to war against Ramoth Gilead or shall I refrain?” All of them said “Go, for the Lord will give it into the king’s hand.”

 But when the king asked prophet Micaiah: “shall we go to war against Ramoth Gilead, or shall I refrain?” After moments of fearful hesitation he said, do not go: “I saw all Israel scattered on the hill like sheep without a shepherd, and the Lord said, “These people have no master.

Let each one go home in peace.” The king then told people, “Didn’t I tell you that he never prophesies anything good about me, but only bad?”

“Put this fellow in prison and give him nothing but bread and water until I return safely.” When the king went to war, he did not return. He was shot and killed there.

 Today, Micaiah is the media whom President Uhuru must allow to speak unfavourable truth or send them to prison. But rather than listen to media asking him to go to ICC and clear his name, the president seems to prefer sending them to prison until he returns from war safely.

And like King Ahab, rather than listen to Micaiah, President Uhuru would rather listen to 400 false prophets or advisors who will lie to him for his favours.

 Top on the list of presidential advisers on media bills is the Cabinet Secretary for Information and Communications who despite passage of the media Bill by National Assembly has asked media and people not to worry. Dr Matiang’i releases a lion out of his cage and when it runs after a bystander, he reassures him not to fear because the lion is harmless!

MPs pushing for oppressive media bills are led by Jamleck Kamau and Adan Duale who are both very close to President Uhuru. Having defended these bills as both necessary and constitutional, they can only advise the president to sign them.

 As for Attorney General, Githu Muigai, he is quite conservative. He once legally advised Longhorn Publishers not to publish an innocent book: ‘Towards Genocide in Kenya: The Curse of Negative Ethnicity.’ Most likely, he may advise the president to sign the contentious bills.

There are other reasons why MPs will want the president to sign the media bills.

 Media embarrassed MPs when they were raising their salaries and are today fighting a bill by MPs to change their definition as public officers who cannot raise their salaries.

To avenge themselves against media, media bills will allow MPs to silence, tame and bring the Press under their heel. To succeed, they have roped in judges.

 Clearly, MPs don’t want media that will make it difficult for them to push their agendas in or out of the National Assembly.

As for the Executive, it is uncomfortable with free media that exposes corruption in government that would have a better name and reputation only if the media would be less able to fight graft.

 Given some media’s consistent efforts to champion truth in regard to illegal transfers of Kenyan citizens to other countries in the war against terror, exposure of looting of Westgate mall by Army personnel during the al Shabaab attack and extra judicial executions of people with a reputation for militancy, most security organs will advise the president to sign the oppressive media bills with indelible ink.

Naturally, the president must also be worried about how his ICC trial proceedings will be covered by media. Expectedly, he would prefer a less than thoroughgoing coverage of proceedings which he regards as humiliating and stigmatising by a media bound by fear of deregistration or financial punishment.

 Lastly, President Uhuru might want to sign the media bills because his blind supporters are encouraging him to crash all his opponents and critics with a Kanu-like dictatorship.

 But this path will self-destruct. A leader must not follow people when they are wrong. During the multiparty debate in Tanzania, 80 per cent Tanzanians voted for single party rule and 20 per cent for multiparty system.

Notwithstanding that President Nyerere was chair of CCM whose majority voted for single party, he supported change to multiparty democracy.

He believed it was time for tyranny of 80 per cent to give way to democracy of 20 per cent. On many questions, President Uhuru will need the wisdom of informed minority, not the clamor of uninformed majority. He must listen to Micaiah, not the 400 false prophets who misled King Ahab and can easily mislead him too.

By refusing to sign the media bills, President Uhuru will save Kenyans from the shame of turning to BBC, CNN and Al Jazeera for news because Kenyan media are not able to report truthfully.

 Media bills should strengthen media self-regulation and accountability to rule of law, not impose government regulations for strangulation of the Press. In the past media has erred, but that is no excuse to completely emasculate or kill it.

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