World Bulletin / News Desk
In a blow to the government, Kenya's High Court on Monday nullified eight sections of the country's controversial security laws as unconstitutional.
"We believe that, rather than enacting legislation that goes against the nature of our constitution and limits the fundamental rights to freedom of expression and the media, the state and media should explore new ways to cover terrorism without compromising national security," Justice Isaac Lenaola said on behalf of a five-judge panel.
But he warned the media that "reckless reporting" and the publication of pictures of dead victims of terror attacks that occurred last December could incur legal penalties.
The court initially suspended the eight sections on Jan. 2, pending a final decision.
President Uhuru Kenyatta signed the amended bill into law on Dec. 19 – one day after it was approved by parliament in an acrimonious session that saw some MPs come to blows.
Among other things, the legislation will facilitate government wiretapping and allow terror suspects to be detained for up to one year without charge.
The government insists the new law will help end the violence that Kenya has suffered since it dispatched troops to Somalia in 2011 to fight the Al-Shabaab militant group.
The country's opposition, however, has branded the amended legislation as "draconian."
Media personalities and human rights groups have also criticized the amended legislation, which, among other things, will oblige them to obtain police authorization before publishing photos of the victims of terrorism.
Opposition figures could not hide their joy over Monday's court ruling.
"We are happy to note that the five-judge bench has upheld virtually a majority of our argument on law," Senate Minority Leader Moses Wetangula told reporters.
"This is a big day for the media also," he added. "They should be celebrating."