In an unprecedented move, National Assembly Speaker Justin Muturi has summoned two People Daily journalists to appear before the Powers and Privileges Committee to substantiate a story on how MPs are soliciting bribes.
However, Muturi says the two journalists, parliamentary reporters Dinah Ondari and Anthony Mwangi, must provide evidence of the same to the Committee on Thursday at 10am.
Muturi said the move was not aimed at gagging the media but to give the reporters an opportunity to shed light on what they might be within their knowledge.
“Maybe they have some information which will be useful to make sure that we do the right thing,” Muturi said of the article titled “House of Bribes”
He directed that the meeting be chaired by Mukurweini MP Anthony Kiai who will be assisted by West Mugirango MP Vincent Mugaka.
The issue about the Monday lead article was raised by Endebess MP Robert Pukose who said the article was in bad taste and depicted MPs as a corrupt lot.
The story alluded that it was possible for members of the Environment Committee who were touring the Kibarani dumping site in Mombasa to assess damage done to the Indian Ocean to return to Nairobi to debate the issue and then fly back to the coastal city to write the report.
The journalists also claimed the hand-outs were received by members of watchdog committees from witnesses to subvert justice in matters before them.
On this, Muturi said: “The journalists must be heard, given a fair chance to explain what it is that perhaps led them to the conclusion that Parliament in its entirety is a bribery den and that parliamentarians are predators.”
The speaker said it would not be fair to dismiss the article without hearing what the reporters have to say as the allegations could be having some basis.
“Please give them a fair hearing it may well be that they could help us in our efforts to streamline the operations of ourselves and of our committees,” Muturi said, adding that it is the writers’ constitutional right to be heard.
“But also, they must answer all questions which will help you as a committee to bring a report to the floor of the house on the alleged corruption.”
Muturi cautioned that if the report finds any evidence of criminality on either side, the law will take its course.
“Should the committee find material that would require to be taken to the relevant specialised investigatory agencies, the committee will be at liberty to make that kind of recommendation,” the House leader said.
Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ) Secretary General Erick Oduor has condemned the move.
“This is madness. Muturi should instead investigate the allegations and reprimand the MPs,” he said.
However, Ondari, who doubles as deputy news editor, says they would comply with the summons.
Reporting by Emmanuel Wanjala/The Star