KUJ officials oppose Bill meant to undermine freedom of media

Kenya Union of Journalists officials led by Secretary General Erick Oduor address a press conference at Elementaita Lodge in Nakuru County. Journalists have demanded the withdrawal of a Bill they say undermines freedom of the media and stifles creativity. (PHOTO: MERCY KAHENDA/ STANDARD)

Journalists have demanded the withdrawal of a Bill they say undermines freedom of the media and stifles creativity.

The Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ) has asked the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) to withdraw the Films Stage Plays and Publication Bill 2016.

Speaking at Elementaita Lodge in Nakuru County, KUJ officials said the Bill was a threat to press freedom and the welfare of journalists in the country.

Secretary General Erick Oduor accused KFCB chairman Ezekiel Mutua of coming up with the Bill without involving communication stakeholders.

"The proposed law is a threat to creativity and journalism in the country and will water down milestones achieved in freedom of media. This Bill should be withdrawn for amendment," said Mr Oduor.

According to the Bill, no film can be made within Kenya without a filming certificate, and a filmmaker is required to execute a bond before being issued with a filming certificate.

The Bill states police officers shall be present during filming and can stop the shooting if they feel the contents of the event being filmed are not good for public consumption.

"The Bill wants to control the use of pictures, police to attend events and investigate how pictures are being taken and which pictures should be used and how they should be used," he said.

Further, the Bill restricts distribution of films without registration, with the board seeking to police clips shared via social media.

He said if passed, the law would increase the cost of film-making in the country and discourage the growth of local content.

"The Bill introduces a licensing regime for individual filming. For example, it restricts a person from using a mobile phone to take a video at a wedding as one would need a certificate and a policeman present as a witness," he said.

"If the Bill is passed into law, one would need to register with the board to share clips of commercials on a social media group such as WhatsApp, Instagram and YouTube among other platforms," he said.

In addition, he said, the board could also advise the Cabinet secretary to prohibit the importation and circulation of objection of publications that are contrary to public interest if the Bill is made into law.

KUJ demanded the withdrawal of the Bill for amendments to ensure that it served the interests of the public.

The union's National Vice-Chairman, John Atambo, said it was ironic that the Bill was being introduced when the Government had adopted information and communication technologies as a key pillar in its development agenda.

"The board is already creating havoc in the media industry using an illegal MoU it signed with the Communication Authority," said Mr Atambo.