Why rogue State censors are chasing after own shadows

Think Again: There are few things as destructive as when the authorities decide what citizens should read, watch or see as it seeks to control the thinking, expression and knowledge of adults.

Censorship is the height of mistrust by authorities of citizens, deciding that they are not intelligent or mature enough to make their own decisions. It denotes state authorities that are weak, paranoid and yes, illegitimate, for they want to control the thinking of people, and how exposed they are to information, education and different ways of thinking.

The purported bans on information on sexual and reproductive health and on the film Rafiki are galling. Someone somewhere thinks that they have a monopoly of wisdom and piety. How crass. If you don’t want to watch Rafiki, simply avoid it. No one is holding a gun to your head forcing you to watch.

But why anyone would think that their views are more important than anyone else’s is the height of arrogance and intolerance, especially when they then assert Christianity as the basis for that intolerance.

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Yet, that Christian fundamentalism is something that anyone with even a scanty knowledge of the Bible knows that Jesus shunned. He stressed that we have individual wills to make our own decisions for which we would bear the consequences. He never tried to force anyone to a certain line.

It is irritating that these religious fundamentalists think that information on LGBTIQ issues is equivalent to promoting what they call “gayism,” a phrase that exists only in Kenya. Science and nature have proved that being LGBTIQ is not a choice for most people and is something that has existed since humanity. And it also exists in the animal kingdom, as a simple Google search can affirm.

How watching a film where two women or men kiss magically turns everyone gay is baffling. How can that be explained scientifically? Or even in religion?

Or perhaps the censors are so afraid of their inner selves and what their inclinations truly are that they think it best to live in denial and pain?

What I detest most about censorship is that it is based on the notion that citizens are stupid, unintelligent, easy to manipulate and not deserving of information. It necessarily assumes that state authorities have some magical intelligence, clarity and responsibility to make decisions for us, even when the issues are personal.

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This, for me, is exactly what the Pharisees were about, clothing themselves in false piety and making decisions for the populace. And Jesus detested them.

Worse, censorship is the continuation of the colonial project where Africans were treated as children to be “guided” and not to be trusted at all. Is it not shameful that more than 50 years after Independence, some of us want to be the same colonial masters that we fought against?

Every time there is state censorship, you can bet that there is something that they want to hide, or are afraid of their own shadows. And, like torture, it does not work. It just pretends to work.

What it does is push information underground, out of the reach of authorities, where all manner of information — some true, some false, some exaggerated — spreads unchallenged and unquestioned. And because the information is underground and “illegal” it becomes even more attractive.

The former Soviet Union tried to keep its population ignorant of the West, and inundated them with false official information about the West. What that did is create a market of everything western and yearnings of many to escape their countries for the West. So much so that East Germany built a wall in Berlin to prevent their people from crossing over to West Berlin. West Germany allowed its citizens to go as they wanted into East Germany confident that most would return.

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It seems to me that if we are certain and confident that our way of life is the best, or the most holy, then we would not need to force people into accepting it by censoring information about other ways of life and living. Using force is surely the clearest sign of how weak and insecure we are of our way of life, and how much our individual examples of living that life are hypocritical.

Our constitution is based on a premise that we as adults are mature, intelligent and capable, hence the deliberate efforts to place us — the people — at the heart of all governance and decisions. This is amplified by the right to receive and impart information and our right to information that censorship necessarily violates.

Yes, there could be censorship of some information for children, but that is for the parents and caregivers to decide, rather than for some arrogant fundamentalists. And there could be some information about state security and military that should be kept from us, but that should be limited, proportional and that which is deemed necessary in a democratic state.

Kenya will only turn the corner when those in authority start liking, trusting and believing in us ordinary people.

- The writer is former KNCHR chairman. [email protected]

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