On Limiting Press Access to the National Assembly Sittings

Posted by on 6th June 2013

Categories:   Uncategorized

According to the Nation:

“The Clerk of the National Assembly Justin Bundi has issued an ultimatum to journalists to vacate Parliament’s media centre. The Clerk has also ordered that journalists will be “invited” to Parliament as and when they are needed. He said the media centre will host parliamentary committees. “We’re not creating residence for journalists in Parliament,” said Mr Bundi, shortly after he issued the ultimatum. The implication is that the parliamentary orderlies have the power to eject journalists from the media centre anytime a committee decides to meet in the venue.”

According to the report the Clerk’s ultimatum comes a week after MP and Leader of the Majority, Aden Duale, warned that media would be ‘taught a lesson’ for its coverage of the MPs demands for higher salaries.

One wonders how this pronouncement fits in with the constitution which requires an open, transparent parliament and specifically prohibits exclusion of the media from parliamentary sittings save for exceptional circumstances.

Article 118 of the constitution clearly states “Parliament shall— (a) conduct its business in an open manner, and its sittings and those of its committees shall be open to the public; and (b) facilitate public participation and involvement in the legislative and other business of Parliament and its committees” and more specifically that, “Parliament may not exclude the public, or any media, from any sitting unless in exceptional circumstances the relevant Speaker has determined that there are justifiable reasons for the exclusion.”

Barring or limiting the media seems to be in direct contravention of Article 118 (2) of the constitution and will necessarily lessen public participation in legislative process and business of parliament as the media is the primary through which the public gains knowledge of the goings on in parliament.

Not to mention that less ‘openness’ on the part of National Assembly, increases the likelihood of corruption, embezzlement of public funds, basically a less accountable National Assembly. The rule of law and the openness of government, which are typical of democracy, limit not only corruption but also the ineffective management or outright squandering of natural or other resources by untouchable government.

And if this barring/limiting media access to National Assembly is indeed retaliation for the media’s coverage of the MPs salary deeper questions may need to be asked about the kind National Assembly we want representing us.

1 Comment

  • by Anthony Okoth on 9th June 2013

    I would like to hear suggestions from individuals who have studied/or have good knowledge of political systems of governance on how we can bring our members of parliament to tow the line. What these guys are actually telling the kenyan Electorate is: "We can do whatever and there is nothing you can do about it". Which is totally unacceptable. They are accountable to no one! This cant be.