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Media Council writes to Justin Muturi over People Daily case

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The national media watchdog has asked National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi to withdraw summons issued to two journalists over a story that depicted Parliament as a House where bribery is the order of the day.

The Media Council of Kenya wants Mr Muturi to refer the matter involving People Daily writers Dinah Ondari and Anthony Mwangi to the council for mediation or adjudication.

“Whereas the council appreciates the concerns raised by the speaker, the council is cognisant of the fact that parliamentarians and the media have a symbolic (sic) relationship, as such, it is incumbent upon them to build a strong professional relationship that is based on mutual respect and recognition that both are essential actors in a working democracy,” Council CEO David Omwoyo writes in the letter dated July 31,2018.

“In this regard, the council requests the office of the speaker to withdraw the summons issued against the two journalists and instead refer the matter as a Complaint to the Media Council of Kenya,” he adds.

The move follows Mr Muturi’s order that Ms Ondari and Mr Mwangi appear before the Powers and Privileges Committee on Thursday at 10am to “shed light” on the claims in their story. 

The article titled “House of Bribes” was published on the paper’s front page in the Monday July 30 edition.

Rising on a point of order on Tuesday, Endebess MP Robert Pukose took issue with ‘House of bribes’ headline, accusing the writers of generalising issues and calling members “predators”.

But Mr Muturi declined members’ push to ban People Daily from covering parliamentary proceedings and instead summoned the writers.

Mr Muturi defended his decision, saying the move was not aimed at gagging the media but to give the reporters an opportunity to shed light on what they might be knowing about the alleged bribery claims.

“Maybe they have some information which will be useful to make sure that we do the right thing,” Mr Muturi said.

The reporters, citing independent undercover investigations, interviews with MPs and investigative agencies, claimed that Sh500 million has exchanged hands in questionable dealings between the MPs and various parties under probe by the 12th Parliament.