Journalism in Africa: New broadcast laws will let sleeping politicians lie

New control measures to guide live coverage of the house proposed by the Kenyan parliament have come in for immediate criticism from the Journalists Association of Kenya (JAK).

Legislators are proposing specific rules through a revised set of standing orders (rules that govern procedures of the Kenyan parliament) which include guidance on camera angles and a singular controlled signal from a proposed Parliamentary Broadcasting Unit (PBU).

Martin Gitau, the secretary general of the JAK, described the move as ‘yet another control measure by parliament’.

“It is okay to guide the media on how to effectively cover parliament but to require that all media rely on a singular signal from a parliamentary body and that specific camera shots be used when televising or filming is parliamentary dictatorship,” he said.

Gitau further described the move as ‘an assault on the freedom of the press’: “We are not in the public relations business, we will not cover parliament as if it is a favour. We must be allowed to focus our camera where there is a tilt. We cannot be guided on how to cover parliament.”

The bill proposes that ‘group shots and cut-aways may be taken for purposes of showing reaction to issues on the floor but not to embarrass individual members of parliament’. The media has previously shown MPs sleeping on the floor of the house, causing a public uproar.

To enforce the new rules parliament proposes the formation of a House Broadcasting Committee that will hand out penalties for breaching the guidelines.

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