The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (Commission) is closely monitoring the ongoing legislative reforms in Kenya, in particular the NGO and media bills.
The Commission commends the Government of Kenya for drafting an NGO bill that was tabled before Parliament on 30 October 2013 and a media bill that was recently adopted by Parliament and is yet to enter into force. These are significant steps that bear testimony to the Government’s commitment to promote and protect the right to freedom of association and the right to freedom of expression and access to information in Kenya.
However, the Commission is concerned about some provisions of the bills which are not in conformity with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter) and other regional and international instruments on freedom of association and expression.
The Commission is further concerned about the provisions on the registration of associations and non-governmental organisations, and the fact that the competent authorities shall have discretion which may result in the abuse of power when implementing the law.
The Commission is particularly concerned about the 15 per cent budget limit for foreign funding. This budget limit is likely to restrict the activities of organisations and make it difficult for them to carry out their mandate.
The Commission is also concerned about the provisions of the media bill which may restrict the right to freedom of expression and expose journalists to legal penalties.
The Commission strongly condemns the various restrictions contained in the NGO and media bills which may restrict the work of organisations and journalists in Kenya.
The Commission urges Kenyan authorities to reject the bills which are considered to be restrictive and undermine the civil liberties achieved by civil society and media professionals.
The Commission urges Kenyan authorities to take necessary measures to re-examine the bills, in consultation with the various stakeholders, in order to adopt laws that are in accordance with the regional and international human rights instruments duly ratified by Kenya.
The Commission calls on Kenyan authorities to draw inspiration from the Model Law on Access to Information for Africa adopted by the Commission and officially launched at its 53rd Ordinary Session and which is aimed at guiding African States in drafting or amending legislation on the media and access to information.
The Commission reiterates the vital and indispensable role played by associations, non-governmental organisations and media professionals in building a democratic society and the rule of law, as well as contributing to development.
The Commission reminds the Government of Kenya of its responsibilities under the African Charter and other human rights promotion and protection instruments.
The Commission further reiterates its Resolutions on the right to freedom of association and expression calling on legislative authorities to respect constitutional provisions and refrain from restricting the exercise of fundamental rights guaranteed by the Constitution and international human rights instruments.
Banjul, 4 December 2013