We are not proposing new law, Mutua clarifies to Godec

Kenya Film Classification Board CEO Dr Ezekiel Mutua (centre) when he addressed the press in Mombasa last week. He is with other KFCB officials who were at the Coast to mobilize views from stakeholders on proposed changes to the CAP 222 Laws of Kenya. PHOTO BY GEORGE ORIDO

Kenya Film Classification Board CEO Ezekiel Mutua has clarified that his team was not proposing a new law but initiating the process of reviewing the Film and the Stage Plays Act CAP 222 to align it to the Constitution and address new regulatory challenges brought by new technologies.

Dr Mutua was reacting to U.S Ambassador to Kenya Robert Godec’s comments castigating the board’s work in reviewing the CAP 222 laws of Kenya otherwise referred to as Kenya Film and Stage Plays Act.

He said that the envoy missed the point by suggesting the process was aimed at curtailing expression and freedom rights.

“The purpose of reviewing CAP 222 is to consolidate content regulatory functions into one law for clarity, and to remove regulatory gaps and ambiguities in terms and definitions in the current law,” he said.

Dr Mutua reiterated that the focus of the board was to protect children from the harmful effects of film and broadcast content as well as online platforms.

“The safety of children online is an important issue even in developed countries given the rise of levels of access of content due to new technologies,” he said. Towards this end, he said, the board was working with Google through the Webrangers programme to empower children avoid harmful effects from online content.

This is in addition to a joint programme with the Communications Authority of Kenya’s Children Online Protection (COP) initiative. “To this end, KFCB is carrying out nationwide campaigns to sensitize the youth, children and parents as well as other government agencies on the dangers of unrated content," he said.

In a statement to newsrooms, Dr Mutua was categorical that while the board was not interested in controlling what adults consume in the media, a regulatory framework was necessary to regulate online content consumption especially on social media.

“Posting mutilated bodies meant to create harm is not only unacceptable but also in contravention of the code of conducted for the practice of journalism in Kenya,” he said.

He noted that a firm framework is also required to protect children from pedophiles using online platforms to lure children.

 “In recent days we have seen troubling news about the Board’s proposed Film, Stage Plays and Publications Act of 2016, which would require Kenyas posting any videos on the internet and social media platforms to register all of their content for classification,” said Godec adding that in addition to being difficult to enforce, the proposed regulations would stifle expression.

The envoy was making the remarks when he addressed guests at a cocktail at his residence when welcoming the new US Cultural Attache Fiona Evans.

But Dr Mutua said in his statement that the process or reviewing CAP 222 was in its initial stages and therefore there was no need for any alarm since the board will consult all stakeholders widely and inclusively before it is presented for consideration by Parliamentarians.

In fact two days ago he met some MPs and discussed the dynamics around the proposed review of CAP 222. He said KFCB has engendered a national conversation on protection of children from harmful content in line with in line with programme code which mandates the Board to examine and rate content for age suitability and compliance with watershed period principle.

“We are strictly following the law and commit to remain on the same path. The Board will at all times respect and uphold the Bill of Rights as enshrined in the Constitution,” he said in the statement.

He explained that CAP 222 was not a new law and does not in any way undermine freedoms enshrined in the Constitution.

“Indeed, the Film and Stage Plays Act has stood the test of time; the Constitution of Kenya 2010 found it consistent with the new dispensation; the Presidential Task Force on Parastatal Reforms expanded the scope of KFCB regulatory functions; the Programming Code for Free-to-Air radio and television services in Kenya added new responsibilities to the Board,” he said.

Dr Mutua said KFCB will continue to work with stakeholders to enhance the performance of the creative industry in Kenya to create jobs and make a contribution to the country’s economic development.