On Saturday we hosted Mugambi Laibuta for a very informative training on the internet and the law in Kenya. This was a much needed training in these days when a tweet or a facebook update can put you on the wrong side of the law. Ignorance is no defense and if you’re on social media, there is need to know your rights, consequences of your engagements, and how to defend yourself in case your input gets you into trouble.You can get the Access to Information bill here.

Mugambi (@olez), started by defining hate speech as derogatory words that actually have a call to action to them – like asking people to mete violence on a person or a group of persons. This is different from insults like when someone calls another an idiot. It is hate speech that will put one in loggerheads with the law.

Defamation and Hate-speech
Legally, you’re liable for all the information on your blog or your social media pages. This is so even though you’re hosting someone else’s words and thoughts. Likewise, a re-publish (eg retweet or a re-share on Facebook) is an endorsement and it can make you party or an accomplice to defamation or hate speech. The only time you can get away with re-publishing is if you’re doing so for purposes of sparking debate or giving further commentary in contrast to the original post if it is libelous.

Freedom of speech –  No matter what platform you’re using, your freedom of expression is enshrined in the constitution. That freedom is however not unlimited. For example, inciting people into propaganda for war or violence are outside the limits of freedom of speech. If you’re a whistle blower, always be ready to back up your claims with documented proof. When we were discussing freedom of speech, Mugambi used the example of Allan Wadi whose case is well know in social media circles. The audience was asked whether they felt that what Wadi did was wrong and the general sentiment in the room was that yes, he did have a case to answer. However, people felt that the speed with which his case was prosecuted and a prison term handed to Wadi was not in line with what we have seen with comparative cases in which ‘bigger’ people are accused of pretty much what Wadi was accused of and more.

In case of arrest – In the unfortunate event of an arrest, do not panic, be civil and diplomatic, comply and seek redress later. Here are a few more things you should know: 

– You have a right to opt to say nothing to the police. This protects you from self incriminating in the absence of your lawyer.

– You have a right to call your lawyer or anyone you feel would be of assistance to you eg a spouse.

– You have a right to be informed of the reason behind the arrest, and to be brought to a court of law within 24 hours.

– It is advisable to record a statement only with your lawyer present. You also have the option to ask for copies of statements and other relevant documents, as well as to ask for a public trial.

– Once you have been arrested, anything you talk with the police is not a conversation. They may try to make it sound so but they’re interrogating you already and anything you say could be used against you.

Mugambi Laibuta covered so much in the 6 hour training and a bit of it is captured in the following tweets. For more of this conversation, follow the conversation on the hashtag #iFreeKe on twitter.