The Media Council Complaints Commission is established by Section 27 of the Media Council Act No 46 of 2013. It is a quasi-judicial body which performs its functions and exercises its powers independently guided by the provisions of Article 159 of the Constitution.
The Commission’s jurisdiction is set out under Sections 31 and 42 (1) of the Media Council Act 2013 to mediate or adjudicate in disputes involving the government and the media, the public and the media and intra-media on ethical issues.
It also ensures adherence to high standards of journalism as provided for in the Code of Conduct for the Practice of Journalism in Kenya as well as endeavours to achieve impartial, speedy and cost-effective settlement of complaints against journalists and media enterprises without fear or favour in relation to the Act.
The Commission also hears and determines appeals against decisions made by the Media Council of Kenya (MCK) in the course of its regulatory functions.
According to the Act, the decisions of the Commission are final and thus not appealable. They can only be challenged at the High Court by way of judicial review in the manner provided for under Section 42 (2) of the Act.
Under the Act, the Commission has been given wide powers to enable it discharge its mandate. These powers include establishing and maintaining internal mechanisms for the resolution of disputes.
It also prescribes procedures for the determination of disputes relating to the media and receives, investigates and deals with complaints made against journalists and media enterprises.
The Commission summons and receives information or evidence relating to any matter before it. It can summon any person to give it reasonable assistance in the investigation of any complaint under the Act or to appear before it for examination concerning matters relevant to the investigation of any complaint made under the Act. The Commission also regulates its own procedure and is not bound by the rules of evidence as set out in the Law of Evidence Act Cap 80 Laws of Kenya.
It consists of a chairperson who is a person who holds or has held a judicial office in Kenya or who is an Advocate of the High Court of not less than 10 years standing and six other persons with knowledge and experience in any of the following areas – journalism; media policy and law; media regulation; business practice and finance; the performing arts or entertainment; advertising practice or related social sciences.
Currently, the sittings of the Commission are held in Nairobi on Tuesdays and Thursdays of every week. Recently, it finalised its plans to have circuit sittings in the counties which will be rolled out in due course.
The procedure of dealing with the complaints filed before the Commission is very simple. It is elaborately set out under Sections 35, 36 and 37 of the Act as well as the Complaints Commission Procedure Rules 2009. Section 38 of the Act provides a raft of the decisions that the Commission may make after hearing of a dispute.
The Commission receives complaints by persons or parties mentioned under Section 31(a) of the Act who are:- aggrieved by any publication or conduct of a journalist or media enterprise; or anything done against a journalist or a media enterprise that limits or interferes with the constitutional freedom of expression of such journalist or media enterprise.
The Complaint should set out the grounds for the complaint, nature of the injury or damage suffered and the remedy or remedies sought.
So far, the Commission has maintained its core role as an impartial, speedy, affordable, open and simpler dispute resolution mechanism in the media sector despite financial and other technical challenges.
Its achievements include participation in the development, launching and implementation of the Strategic Plan 2018-2023 which, for the first time, seeks to strengthen its mediation and dispute resolution capacity. Other achievements include the rolling out of an outreach programme to sensitise and educate the public on the Commission’s work.
The Commission has also finalised plans to roll out circuit sittings in the counties, opening of new registries as well as completion of the review of the Commission’s Rules of Procedure and Mediation Rules now awaiting parliamentary approval.
The backlog of cases that existed in 2016 when the current Commissioners assumed office has since been cleared and more cases that are being filed on a daily basis are being dealt with expeditiously. – The writer is the chairperson of the MCK Complaints Commission. Email: [email protected]