Covering Kenyan Parliament becomes a farce

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NAIROBI, Kenya, Sep 19 – National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi has ordered the Clerk of the National Assembly to designate ‘a room’ within Parliament Buildings where legislators can address news conferences.

The Speaker issued the directive after Suba MP John Mbadi complained that MPs were having a hard time addressing matters of public importance through the media.

Wednesday’s announcement came hours after journalists covering the National Assembly were barred from the Parliament Buildings when they went to cover a media briefing called by MPs allied to the opposition Coalition for Reforms and Democracy.

It was the second time the journalists were barred from accessing Parliament this year.

The Kenya Parliamentary Journalists Association chairman Alphonse Shiundu protested the Thursday morning move and urged the Speaker to allow journalists to use the Media Centre, which has not utilised since the Speaker made the order almost four months ago.

“For the last 106 days, it has been a nightmare for parliamentary journalists to cover the National Assembly,” Shiundu said in a statement condemning the move.

“That action alone consigned journalists to cover the August House from the corridors and the Press Gallery. At times, they play hide-and-seek with the security officers to use the vacant media centre from which they were chased.”

“The Speaker of the National Assembly Justin Muturi has promised journalists that they will get an alternative site once the construction work is concluded – those familiar with the works say it will take at least a year to conclude the work. It is not lost on journalists that such promises are a fool’s comfort,” he added.

Muturi said he will inspect the construction of the Senate Chamber in the next two weeks, which is currently undergoing renovations and will give details about when the new Media Centre will be ready.

“If the committees are not using the facility then obviously we cannot let the facility lie idle,” the Speaker said.
The Speaker said he was not aware that journalists had not been given alternative space to do their jobs.

“Journalists should have unfettered access to the Houses precincts and committees, they are part and parcel of the House,” Muturi added, “There’s no need for anyone to block them.”

Muturi had directed that journalists vacate the media centre due to a shortage of space for MPs to conduct House committees meetings.

The number of House Committees was increased from 14 to 28 and their membership had been further enhanced to 29 from 11 legislators per committee.

The centre was constructed with the help of the US government in 2009 at a cost of Sh2.5 million mainly to help journalist cover proceedings.

SOURCE: Capital News, September 20th 2013: