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Judges declare eight sections of new security law illegal

03:09 Feb 23 2015 Nairobi, Kenya

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The Constitution’s Bill of Rights held sway yesterday as the High Court declared several sections of the Security Laws (Amendment) Act, 2014 illegal, including those criminalising freedom of the media. The five-judge Bench declared Section 12 of the Act unconstitutional because it restricts freedom of expression. The provision was one of the eight sections of the controversial law that the judges deemed to be unconstitutional even as the court cleared another eight. The Bill was signed into law by President Uhuru Kenyatta on December 19, last year, prompting Coalition for Reforms and Democracy ( CORD) and NGOs to file petitions challenging its provisions. The Act amended 22 other laws that deal with security matters. The court mainly considered the law against the Bill of Rights under the Constitution. It considered whether the law violated freedom of expression and the media, right to privacy, right of an arrested person to fair trial, entitlement to citizenship and registration of persons and the right to freedom of movement and those of refugees in Kenya. The judges – Isaac Lenaola, Mumbi Ngugi, Hedwig Ong’undi, Hilary Chemitei and Louis Onguto – ruled on about 16 provisions in the new law, which were the subject of the controversy. Section 12 of the Act had amended the Penal Code, making it criminal to publish or broadcast through print, digital or electronic means, or images of dead or injured persons likely to cause fear and alarm in the general public, or disturb the peace. Anyone convicted of this was liable for a fine of up to Sh5 million, or three years in jail. The judges ruled that amendments would impact on the freedom of the media. The Bench termed the effect of the quashed section of law as “chilling” for the media, noting that the same did not have a bearing on fight against terrorism. But they also warned the media not to abuse their freedom by publishing gross images or images that may offend the public
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