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The East African : December 9th 2013
The EastAfrican OUTLOOK DECEMBER 7-13,2013 E AC N EWS Harsh laws threaten freedom of the media in the region Kenya is the latest count≥y to pass ≥ep≥essive laws A JOINT REPORT J ournalists in East Africa are increasingly facing a hostile work environment as countries enact repressive media laws. Kenya, where freedom of the media has been flourishing over the past 10 years, has now joined other countries in the region in the war against the Fourth Estate. The Kenyan parliament on Thursday passed a Bill — Kenya Information and Communication (amendment) Bill, which prescribes hefty fines and penalties against journalists and media houses who will be deemed to be on the wrong side of this law. Earlier, President Uhuru Kenyatta had refused to assent to the Bill following industry outcry over prescribed punitive fines and government-controlled regulation. He however introduced fresh amendments with even more harsh measures and sent it back to parliament. Parliament passed the Bill as it is, and set the stage for the killing of media freedom. According to the Bill, which now awaits presidential assent, a tribunal will be established with powers to impose a fine of up to Ksh500,000 ($8,935) on “erring” journalists in addition to deregistration. Media houses will be fined Ksh20 million ($230,000). In addition, parliament passed the Media Council Bill, which establishes a commission with power to receive, investigate and deal with complaints made against journalists and me- EACJ to handle c≥iminal o≠ences By CHRISTABEL LIGAMI Special Correspondent THE MANDATE of the East African Court of Justice has been extended to handle international cases such as genocide, crimes against humanity, terrorism and war crimes. The recent Heads of State Summit in Kampala also mandated the regional court to handle disputes arising from trade and investment, monetary union and human rights matters. EACJ’s mandate had RANKING Journalists demonstrate in Nairobi. Picture: Billy Mutai dia houses. In Tanzania, the media fraternity recently had a brief reprieve when parliament rejected amendments to the Newspapers Act of 1976. MPs ganged up against the Bill, arguing that the fines, which the Bill had proposed were not necessary. According to Dr Benson Ban, a political scientist at the University of Dar-es-Salaam, the MPs were cognizant of the fact that allowing such amendments to sail through could one day haunt them. “Even though our parlia- ment has been weakened due to its composition, the MPs are slowly realising that they should safeguard the rights of In Kenya, a tribunal will have powers to impose a fine of up to $8,935 on journalists individuals and they understand the effect of controlling the media,” said Dr Ban. The proposed amendments had recommended penalties of Tsh5 million ($3,125) from Tsh150,000 ($93.75). Deputy Attorney General, George Masaju, said the rejected Bill will not be tabled afresh as the government will be looking at the possibility of presenting the Media Services and Right to Information Bill in parliament. In Uganda, the govern- ment has in the recent past arbitrarily shut down media houses which are critical of the government and arresting journalists. Uganda has also introduced Press and Journalist Act of 2000, the Regulation of the Interception of Communications Act of 2010, the Uganda Communications Authority Bill 2012 — all of which are a threat to media freedom. In Rwanda, the media law The 2013 World Press Freedom Index 2013 by Reporters without Borders, ranked Tanzania as the country with the most progressive attitude to press freedom in the region OTHER COUNTRIES: Kenya was second in the region at number 71 followed by Uganda, Burundi and Rwanda occupying positions 104 132 and 161 respectively. Namibia was ranked as the most media-friendly country in Africa. adopted in March was meant to enhance freedom of the press by repealing clauses that allowed arbitrary suspension and closure of publications, it still contains some restrictive provisions. The law allows the im- prisonment of journalists on charges of libel, genocide ideology, undermining state security or giving false testimony. Reported By Joseph Mwa- munyange, Benon Oluka, Paul Redfern and Fred Oluoch been limited to resolution of disputes between EAC member states. According to Kenya’s East African Legislative Assembly member Peter Mathuki, the powers of the court had been limited to interpretation and application of the EAC Treaty. He said the partner states will be required to amend Article 27 (2) of the Treaty to grant the Court jurisdiction over crimes against humanity trials covering both state and individual responsibility. The extension of the ju- risdiction of the EACJ had been proposed by the Council of Ministers for approval by the EAC heads of state during their last meeting in Kampala. The heads of state fur- ther directed EACJ to work with the African Union on issues relating to crimes against humanity. Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto are facing crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court. Attempts to refer the cases to Africa have been unsuccessful. Article 27 of the Treaty provides, “The Court shall have such other original, appellate, human rights and other jurisdiction as 37 Peter Mathuki will be determined by the Council at a suitable subsequent date. To this end, the Partner States shall conclude a protocol to operationalise the extended jurisdiction.” The Sectoral Council at its 5th meeting held on November 24 decided that in view of the growing scope of the EAC integration process, jurisdiction of the court should be extended. The decision of the Sectoral Council was approved by the Council at its 9th meeting held on April 9, 2005. However, despite lack of explicit jurisdiction to tackle human rights cases, Mr Mathuki said the EACJ has addressed various cases involving individual rights, which called for full mandate of handling human rights cases in the region. “Even though it lacks a human rights mandate as clear as that of the Ecowas court, EACJ has had a very progressive human rights judgement to its credit where the basic rights of individuals under the Treaty are respected,” said Mr Mathuki. For instance, in the case of James Katabazi and 21 others vs the Secretary General, the EACJ was petitioned to determine the legality of the detention of Ugandan prisoners. The EACJ conceded that “jurisdiction with respect to human rights requires a determination of the Council and a conclusion of a protocol to that effect. Rwanda now moves to ≥eview education policy fo≥ imp≥oved standa≥ds BY RODRIGUE RWIRAHIRA Special Correspondent RWANDA IS reviewing its education curriculum to deal with quality concerns. The country’s education sector has been accused of churning out half-baked graduates, making it difficult for them to compete with their peers from other countries in the region in the job market. During the review, the coun- try will be seeking to upgrade its education system to match the standards of other countries in the region. The new curriculum, which is being drafted for primary and secondary schools is aimed at enhancing skills and competency to reduce gaps in the education system. Dr Joyce Musabe, head of cur- ricula and material production and distribution department at the Rwanda Education Board (REB), said that the new curriculum will be practical and skills-centred. “Teachers grapple with too much content, trying to cover it in a shortest time possible. This subjects students to a scheme of plain memorisation to fill up or replicate the produced content during exams,” said Dr Musabe. Rwanda has also been on the spot for tinkering with the syllabus, particularly removing French as 2020 the language of instruction hastily and replacing it with English instead. The government, however, has defended the move, arguing that the switch was timely and will make Rwanda compete favourably in the region. But earlier this year, French was The year Rwanda expects to become a middle-income economy. again reintroduced onto the curriculum as an examinable subject as well as alternative language of instruction. “The 2016 curriculum plan seeks to propel Rwanda to the economic development it desires towards Vision 2020; and the plan is to have the ongoing textbooks reform aligned to the revised curriculum,” added Dr Musabe. According to a REB report on the review process, the plan will be done in five phases, with phase one and two focusing on identification of gaps. Phase three will focus on a road map and steps to be undertaken in addressing the gaps while phase four and five will focus on increasing capacity of teachers and experts.
December 2nd 2013
December 16th 2013