Kenya: Draft Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Bill, 2014

In November 2014, ARTICLE 19 examined the compliance of Kenya’s draft of the Parliamentary Powers and Privileges Bill 2014(‘the Draft Bill’), with international human rights standards.  In particular, we examined the compatibility of the Draft Bill against international and comparative standards for the protection of freedom of expression.

ARTICLE 19 appreciates that the Draft Bill absolves parliamentarians from criminal and civil liability for their speeches in the parliament. However, the analysis also shows a number of shortcomings, such as: the language of several provisions of the Draft Bill is unduly broad; the Bill imposes overly harsh disciplinary sanction for some offenses, it protests public bodies from defamation, it fails to sufficiently protect the right to freedom of assembly and it restricts the possibility of broadcasting on parliamentary proceedings.

ARTICLE 19 offers detailed recommendations on how to bring the Bill in further compliance with international freedom of expression standards. We encourages the Kenyan legislators to address our recommendations in the process of revising the Draft Bill and stand ready to support and further assist in this process.

Summary of recommendations:

  • The parliamentary privilege should cover all persons involved in the proceedings of Parliament;
  • For the sake of clarity, the Bill should indicate the start and the end of parliamentary privilege;
  • The scope of parliamentary privilege should cover press statements by parliamentarians who repeat words spoken in Parliament
  • The parliamentary privilege should cover words in the course of activities of political groups as well as reports or other documents written by MPs to parliamentary groups in the context in the Parliament work;  
  • The Bill should specify the scope of disciplinary liability of parliamentarians and the procedure for sanctioning profane language or acts during parliamentary or committee sessions.
  • The Bill should include specific rules on demonstrations in the controlled areas of the precincts and delegate to the Speakers only those powers with which to execute the rules.
  • The Bill should clearly specify the area of the precincts by avoiding the use of generic terms;
  • Individuals who fail to comply with an instruction regarding the presence of the public  in controlled precincts should not be punished with imprisonment. For such violations, the law should provide for fines only.
  • The Bill should include more specific rules regarding the authorisation for broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings;
  • Parliament, as opposed to the Speakers, should authorise broadcasting of parliamentary proceedings.
  • Section 32 of the Draft Bill, protecting Parliament and public bodies against defamation, should be removed in its entirety.
  • The Bill should specify the procedure and the timeline for publishing statements of response from aggrieved individuals in Parliamentary journals.

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