Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

Press freedom in Kenya

Delivered in Plenary - 15th January 2009

Mr President

Until last year’s violence, Kenya had a reputation as one of Africa’s politically more stable countries and had a tradition of a relatively free and robust press.

President Kibaki needs to realise that political stability and a free press are mutually reinforcing. This restriction of freedom of speech, as proposed, is unbecoming for a country led by a man who came to power promising a new era of openness and transparency. Unfortunately, it seems that many senior politicians in Kenya have still not developed a sufficiently thick skin to handle the inevitable barbs of a free press and a democracy. I hope that President Kibaki will take our advice and change his mind. That would reassure us of Kenya’s purported commitment to a free society under a power-sharing coalition government. It would also strengthen Kenya’s case for moral authority and leadership in an unstable region.

I welcome the President’s pledge now to consider amendments to this bill and to consult more widely with the media. Given that Prime Minister Raila Odinga and the ODM, his party, are vigorously opposed to this legislation, it is also vital for the stability of the Government that it does not become even more of an inflammatory and divisive political issue.