Friday, October 13, 2006

Please Control Media, Says Maina Kiai

It is hard to believe that the Kenya National Human Rights Commission (KNHRC) is pushing for more media control. In the following Daily Nation (Oct. 12) article, KNHRC chairman Maina Kiai, is asking the government to block media houses from owning several news outlets, all in the name of making reporting “fair and open”. This group should be reminded that open and fair society cannot be achieved through state control, but through competition of ideas. It is the absence of competition that has resulted to development of "monolithic ownership".

Kiai team calls for controls on media holdings

Story by SAMUEL SIRINGI Publication Date: 10/13/2006

"A State-owned human rights agency has called for the enactment of a law that will limit media ownership. Restrictions on cross-media ownership would ensure public life was reported in a "fair and open manner", says the Kenya National Commission on Human Rights (KNCHR).

In a report to be launched today, the commission, chaired by Mr Maina Kiai, says a media house owning both print and electronic media was not healthy for democracy. Local print media is dominated by two major publishing houses – Nation and Standard – both of which have substantial broadcasting stakes. Royal Media Services, which owns radio, television and a newspaper, is also classified under what the commission calls "emerging sense of monolithic ownership". It proposes: "There is therefore urgent need for regulation of cross-media ownership to guarantee a diversity of information and variety of voices."

The report adds: "It bodes ill for our democracy if Kenyans are expected to make choices based on three sources of information." The Referendum report calls for speeding up of the Media Bill to regulate cross-media ownership. The commission's recommendation is welcome news to the Government, which has been pushing for a law against cross-media ownership despite opposition from industry players.

Last month, Information and Communications permanent secretary Bitange Ndemo said the Cabinet had endorsed a draft media policy. Dr Ndemo said the paper would open the way for tabling in Parliament of a proposed media Bill. But he stated that the Government was not intending to control the operations of the media through the policy. One of the proposals states that "concentration of ownership of print and electronic media in a few hands will be discouraged". At a forum held in Nairobi in May, the media asked the Government to drop the proposal on the matter, saying cross-ownership should be left to market forces rather than be regulated."

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