The Public Participation forum on the proposed provisions on blogging and social media in the Kenya Information and Communications (Amendment) Bill KICA was held on Monday at the County hall, where the public had the opportunity to submit their representations to the Kenya National Assembly Information, Communication and Innovation Committee.
The bill in contention, sponsored by Malva MP, Moses Injendi, seeks to amend the KICA act to provide for stringent measures in social media regulation. The bill requires all Facebook and WhatsApp group administrators to be registered with the Communication Authority (CA) before setting up any Social media groups. The Bill also proposes that users and group administrators who allow offending content on their social media platforms to be jailed for a term not exceeding one year or face a ksh200,000 fine.
Chairman of the committee William Kisang’s opinion on the proposed KICA bill was that it goes against the freedom of speech, privacy, and freedom of belief and opinion as enshrined in the constitution.
Nominated MP Godfrey Osoti also added that the bill was unconstitutional because it violated the right to expression and privacy. “ The committee would be headed in the wrong direction discussing something that is already unconstitutional,” he said.
Organisations, which include Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE), Kenya union of journalists (KUJ), Kenya ICT Action Network (KICTANET), Amnesty International (AI-Kenya) and Lawyers hub Kenya, jointly called for the rejection of the bill in its totality.
BAKE And KUJ jointly submitted a memorandum on the KICA Amendment Bill 2019 terming it “unconstitutional and untenable.”
In our submission, we reiterated that Article 19 (3) of the Constitution recognizes that the Rights and Fundamental Freedoms are not granted by the state. The state does not have the right to interfere with or issue a prescription as to how a right should be enjoyed.
“It is evident from the provisions of the Bill that the intended regulation is to introduce registration and licensing regime for social media platforms and blogs. Further, the state seeks to collect and remit data from the users of the platforms to the state whenever so required by the state.
Social media platforms and blogs are civilian public debate forums within the cyberspace. They are interactive and access to them is voluntary and only available only on request/demand.
As such in the 21st Century, any attempt at interference with social media goes to the heart of freedom of expression. Any regulation of the social media and the blogosphere, therefore, must comply with the Constitution, and consideration must be borne that freedom of expression goes to the heart of Democracy, good governance and Human Rights,” said the memorandum.
KICTANET in their submission also termed the bill unconstitutional and emphasized its withdrawal as it “Has devastating ramifications on the sovereignty of the people, the supremacy of the constitution and democracy as a whole.”
“KICA is not supposed to deal with content, it’s supposed to deal with systems. This is a retrogressive bill that undermines freedom of speech and thought,” said Demas Kiprono, Constitutional & Human Rights Lawyer at Amnesty International Kenya.
Victor Kapiyo, Trustee at KICTANet expressed his elation with the committee’s decision. He further called upon the National Assembly to ensure that Bills go through a scrutiny process to assess whether they are constitutional or not before they are brought to the committees.
Mr Kisang concluded that they would do a report to the national assembly, urging them to throw the Bill out. He, however, cautioned the public on the use of social media and urged them to be responsible in their undertakings.