Proposed changes to censorship law in Kenya have filmmakers, bloggers, actors and many
others in the media industry worried that their free speech will be curtailed.
Officials at the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB), the government agency that regulates the creation, broadcasting and distribution of films, propose that the board would have extended powers to regulate film and stage productions as well as
publications, including online content.
ISPs would be required to ensure that anyone who uses their platforms to publish content is registered with the board, and would be required to prevent use of their services for hosting or distributing pornography, radicalization materials, hate speech
and glamorization of use of drugs and alcohol, among other content. Internet service providers who fail to comply with these provisions face a fine of 2 million shillings ($19,655) upon conviction, or a prison term of up to two years, or both.
In addition, compliance officers would be able to seize film that they feel violates the law. However, some fees, including those paid to the board for reviewing films, would be removed.
Opponents of the proposal say it would take the country back to the 1990s, when the media and arts were heavily censored by the government, because the plan would increase the board's power and expand its scope.
According to current law, a film cannot be made in Kenya without a license from the board. Film producers are required to submit a full description of the scenes and the full text of the spoken parts of the entire film for approval, as well as to pay
fees, before a license is granted. Changes to the film are subject to further review. Police can intervene, by force if necessary, to stop the making of a film if in an officer's opinion it endangers the safety of any person or property, among
Organizations in the arts industry have rejected the board's proposed law and have approached the Ministry of Sports, Culture and the Arts about an alternative bill.
Kimani Njogu, the chairman of the Kenya Creative Economy Working Group, says that if his organization's push for an alternative bill does not succeed, it is prepared to go to court to seek interpretation on the constitutional provisions on freedom of