The Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology has appointed two new members to the Communications and Multimedia Appeals Tribunal which has the power to impose criminal sanctions and hefty fines on media enterprises and journalists.
Startup, The Konnector, co-founder Mbesa Malombe and Information Scientist Margaret Nyambura Ndung'u haved joined four other members including chairperson William Oketch. These members were sworn in in July at the Supreme Court.
The notice of the new members’ appointment effective August 15 appeared in the Kenya Gazette on Friday and the membership is for a period of three years.
According to Mr Oketch, the jurisdiction of the tribunal includes the power to hear complaints against any publication or conduct of a journalist or media enterprise; to hear appeals against the decisions of the industry regulators, the Communications Authority of Kenya and the Media Council of Kenya; and complaints by any citizen who is aggrieved by an action or decision of licencees, who are telecommunications service providers under the Kenya Information and Communications Act.
But stakeholders have expressed growing concern on the limitations of media freedom by raising a fear of retribution under the guise of safeguarding against violation of ethical journalistic and professional standards.
Parliament gave the Cabinet Secretary for Information the authority to establish the tribunal through the Media Council Act of 2013 which, by Mr Oketch’s own admission, did not gain stakeholder confidence and instead sought to limit media freedom.
The tribunal says they have been provided with statutory limits of an acceptable sentence for a breach and that the fines will not be automatically imposed.
Other members of the tribunal are Janet Wekesa, Isaiah Kibet Cherotich, Annette Nasiaki Okello and Ibrahim Maina Mutembei.