A new Bill that seeks to regulate social media use in Kenya through a range of licensing controls has been greeted with dismay by large sections of the Kenyan public.
The Kenya Information and Communications (Amendment) Bill, 2019 sponsored by the Malava Member of Parliament, Malulu Injendi, would require creators and administrators of social media groups to notify the Communications Authority of Kenya of their intentions to form groups. Additionally, social media group administrators would be compelled by the law to strictly control “undesirable content and discussion” and “approve all content” published on sites like WhatsApp and Facebook.
Failure to adhere to this provision may lead to a two-year prison term or a fine not exceeding KES200,000 (just over USD1,900).
The proposed amendment was quickly shot down by other Kenyan legislators.
In an interview with Citizen TV, chair of the parliamentary ICT committee, William Kisang, said, “We will call the MP after he tables the Bill and give him expert advice; we should be realistic. Even if we passed the Bill it will be quashed by the courts.”
Babu Owino, the Embakasi East MP, rubbished the Bill. He told online news outlet tuko.co.ke: “We should be focusing on how our graduates will get jobs, fair distribution of resources, food security and quality education in our universities yet some MPs are joking. Let’s be serious.”
The amendment also seeks to license bloggers in Kenya, a provision that bears a strong resemblance to a recent Tanzanian law that requires mandatory licensing of bloggers.
Additionally the Bill proposes controls on content produced by social media users, specifically content that degrades or intimidates its recipients, and that which is prejudicial against a person or group of people based on their race, gender, ethnicity, nationality, religion, political affiliation, ability or appearance.
In an opinion published in The Star, human rights lawyer Demas Kiprono argued that the amendment “seeks to limit freedom of expression, association and to some extent freedom of assembly online.”
Kiprono called on the National Assembly to treat the Bill “with the contempt it deserves.”
Read the Kenya Information and Communication (Amendment) Bill, 2019 below.