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Kenya13 May 2002

Parliament adopted a bill that threatens the media

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) expressed its concern today about a bill adopted by Kenyan MPs on 8 May 2002 and called on the head of State to ask the government to drop the bill, saying it was repressive and a "clear threat" to media diversity in Kenya.

"It naturally discriminates in favour of richer newspapers and introduces an ambiance of intimidation at all levels of production," said RSF secretary-general Robert Ménard in a letter to President Daniel arap Moi. "It gravely threatens the survival of the weakest titles."

Parliament has adopted on 8 May 2002 the Statutes Law Bill (Miscellaneous Amendment Bill), tabled by Attorney General Amos Wako. The latest version of it increases the cost of newspaper publishing bond from 10,000 shillings (150 euros) to one million (15,000 euros).

Those who fail to conform risk a fine of one million shillings and/or a three-year prison sentence. Re-offenders can be jailed for five years or even permanently banned from publishing anything. The law also punishes those who sell or distribute papers that haven’t paid the bond.

RSF notes that The People Daily and its former editor, George Mbugguss, were sentenced on appeal on 22 March this year to pay 20 million shillings (about 300,000 euros) in libel damages to trade and industry minister Nicholas Biwott. An article on 10 March 1999 implicated Nicholas Biwott, then minister for the East African Community, in the allegedly corrupt award of a contract in a hydro-electric dam construction project.

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