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Journalists' union opposes Bill on media content

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MONDAY NOVEMBER 7 2016 

Kenya Union of Journalist's Secretary-General Eric Oduor addresses reporters at Sentrim Hotel, Nakuru County, on November 6, 2016. KUJ opposed the Bill proposed by the Kenya Film Classification Board seeking to control media content. PHOTO | JOSEPH OPENDA | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

·         Eric Oduor, the body's secretary, said the Bill is regressive because it threatens media freedom, demanding its withdrawal.
·         The union's Labour Relations Secretary Mary Daraja said the clauses are malicious and aimed at interfering with the independence of the press.

The Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ) has objected to a proposed Bill by the Kenya Film Classification Board that seeks to control media content.
The Union, whose national governing council met in Nakuru County on Sunday, rejected the Films, Stage Plays and Publications Bill 2016.
Eric Oduor, the body's secretary, said the Bill is regressive because it threatens media freedom, demanding its withdrawal.
Further, Mr Oduor said media stakeholders were not consulted during drafting and that it contains severe clauses which need to be expunged.
"The proposed law, if passed in its current form, is a threat to the creativity industry and practice of journalism in this country, and will thus water down the milestones made in the freedom of the media," he said.
Some of the contentious issues include licensing of mobile phones used in taking photos, monitoring and licensing of weddings and private functions as well as filmmakers being assigned police officers when doing their work - the officers will have powers to stop or intervene when necessary.
Part Three of the proposal provides that every person engaged in the making of film: as a proprietor, producer, promoter, financier, actor or photographer, will be required to apply for a filming certificate.
The same section requires the presence of a police officer at the filming scene, giving him the authority to stop or intervene the activity whenever he/she deems it necessary.
Part Four of the draft Bill on Internet service providers requires that the exhibitors and distributors be registered before using Internet platforms and the content be classified before it is shared.
The union's Labour Relations Secretary Mary Daraja said the clauses are malicious and aimed at interfering with the independence of the press.
KUJ has also accused the Film board's Chairman Ezekiel Mutua of trying to "overstep his mandate by seeking powers to execute roles that belong to other government agencies".
Moreover, the council said the Bill gives KFCB powers to control circulation of content on social media, which is a mandate belonging to the Communication Authority, the Ministry of Information and
Communications and the Ministry of Interior & Coordination of National Government.
Thus the journalists’ body is calling for the reconstitution of the Board to have professionals run it.

It also wants the Board to convene forums with stakeholders to debate on the Bill in order to strike a deal on an acceptable law.

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