Owalo says state cannot pull down offensive content on TV

ICS Eliud Owalo before the National Assembly Communication Committee on April 13, 2023. [Elvis Ogina, Standard]

Information, Communication and Technology Cabinet Secretary Eliud Owalo has said there is no legislation that gives the government powers to pull down offensive content aired by the media.

He explained the best the government can do is to negotiate with media owners on whether the content has to be pulled down or not.

Owalo told the Senate Ad Hoc Committee investigating the proliferation of religious organisations and the Shakahola deaths that the ministry will bring a Bill to Parliament to give the government rights to manage what is aired.

The Cabinet Secretary said that Kenyans need to have internal introspection to change their culture and attitude and remedial measures required a multifaceted approach from the government.

He was optimistic that various challenges in the sector will be sorted out through digitisation.

"We are ready to benchmark with the best practices elsewhere on the management of content aired on our various broadcast and social media platforms to ensure that what is put across espouses good moral values for our society and prevent infiltration of negative content," said Owalo.

Tana River Senator Danson Mungatana wondered why Kenyan television stations did not have feedback and complaints platforms on programmes aired like it happens in South Africa.

Mungatana who is the Chairperson of the Senate Ad Hoc Committee said that wananchi view what they consider to be negative programmes on television but do not know how they can raise complaints with the relevant government agencies for action to be taken.

The senator said that the ministry should have ordered the removal of digital content related to controversial pastor Paul Makenzi the moment it was found out that he was involved in the promotion of a cult that advocated for the faithful to starve to death bearing in mind that he had been arraigned in court before.

"Nigeria is on record suspending the airing of live miracles in their media channels. What about Kenya? Something needs to be done so that we do not have another religious leader indoctrinating Kenyans just like Mr Paul Mackenzie has done leading to the deaths of over 400 people," said Mungatana.

Owalo promised that the government will set up a call centre for public complaints at the Konza Technopolis which will be relayed to the relevant government departments for necessary action and the toll-free numbers will be revealed to Kenyans.

Mungatana wondered why the Ministry had not taken action against some religious leaders who were openly defrauding Kenyans through broadcast channels where they demand money for instant miracles which were false.

The Tana River Senator said that some religious leaders rehearse several times before performing alleged miracles in efforts to hoodwink Kenyans.

"It is unfortunate that we have some religious leaders engaging in activities that are aimed at getting money from desperate Kenyans through content they broadcast on various channels, it is time the government reined on this in order to prevent another Shakahola from happening," said Mungatana.

Bungoma Senator Wafula Wakoli urged the Judiciary not to operate in isolation when handling matters of public interest citing the case of Makenzi who was arrested and released several times despite there being glaring evidence that he was up to no good leading to the Shakahola massacre.

Wakoli said that had all the relevant agencies performed their roles effectively the controversial pastor could have been stopped from radicalising his followers which could in turn have prevented the deaths of more than 400 people.