LSK wants court to quash move to restrict govt adverts to one newspaper

The Law Society of Kenya (LSK) has gone to court to overturn a directive restricting government advertisements to one newspaper publication, which it described as an affront to the constitution.

The LSK says in a petition filed at the High Court that through a memorandum on January 23, the PS Ministry of ICT, Innovations and Youth Affairs Prof Edward Kisiang’ani restricted print advertisements emanating from government agencies, independent commissions and public universities to The Star newspaper.

In the memo, the PS had directed all PSs, chief executive officers of State corporations and semi-autonomous and autonomous government agencies, independent commissions and vice chancellors of public universities to restrict their advertising for the next two years to Convergence Media Ltd and Star Publications Ltd.

“This is a complete departure from constitutional and statutory provisions and industry norms that accord and ensure wide and national dissemination and circulation of crucial government information across the country and negates the government’s original intention of achieving nationwide circulation of public information,” Florence Muturi, the chief executive officer, LSK said.

The LSK pointed out that government advertising is undertaken through the My.Gov publication which was intended to create a nationwide window for disseminating crucial information on government procurement, request for services, public service job advertisements and other vital activities.

The publication is regularly printed and used to be circulated by four daily newspapers- Daily NationThe StandardThe Star and The People Daily. The contract expired in December 2023.

The government then floated a tender upon the expiry of the contract and in breach of tendering process, purported to single source and picked Convergence Media and The Star Publications as the only successful bidders, making them the sole printers and distributors of My-Gov publication.

The LSK says the problem is that The Star is not a newspapers of national circulation or reach because it is mainly distributed in Nairobi.

This means that My-Gov pull-out is now being distributed and circulated in Nairobi, LSK said.

Ms Muturi said the government did not reach out, consult with media stakeholders, consumers of government information and the people of Kenya generally, who are adversely affected or are likely to be adversely affected by the introduction of the memorandum.

“The impugned actions were therefore taken without due regard of conducting meaningful public participation as provided under Articles 10(2) and 201 of the constitution,”

She said the government violated the right to equal protection and equal benefit of the law by failing to consult key stakeholders.

“By restricting the My-Gov pull-out to The Star the government breached the provisions of the constitution that guarantees the freedom and independence of electronic, print and all other types of media, which prohibits the State from exercising control over or interfering with any person engaged in the production or circulation of any publication or the dissemination of information by any medium,” she added.

The LSK says the government effectively created a monopolistic hold of the Star newspapers thus creating a media avenue which is subject to both commercial and political government interests, contrary to the constitution.

“The petitioner contends that the obligation under Article 35(3) of not only publishing but also publicizing important information affecting the public requires the widest possible circulation which cannot be achieved through The Star newspaper.

According to the lawyers’ body, the constitution guarantees that commissions and holders of independent offices are independent and subject only to the constitution and the law and the PS cannot purport to direct the activities of those offices.

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