Media / Watchdog
Thursday, 17 Nov 2016 16:58 EATjmoyi@kenyafreepress.com
The Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) has agreed to withdraw the controversial draft Kenya Film Classification Bill and allow for further consultations before the Bill is redrafted and tabled in Parliament for enactment. KFCB CEO Ezekiel Mutua admitted before a Panel on NTV’s Press Pass on Monday night that the right procedure had not been followed in the drafting of the bill in the current state forcing it to be withdrawn to ensure all stakeholders fully participate.
Mr Mutua admitted after a heated debate with panelists putting him to task over the manner in which the Bill had been drafted. The NTV programme was hosted by Mark Masai and panelists included Mercy Wanjau, Assistant Director at Communications Authority (CA), Eric Oduor, Secretary General of the Kenya Union of Journalists (KUJ), Clifford Machoka, head of Department Corporate Affairs at ation Media Group (NMG) and Mr David Deus, a media producer.
The panelists reprimanded Mr Mutua for allegedly exceeding his mandate by purporting to be the ‘policeman’ for objectionable TV and radio and even social media content. But Mr Mutua put up a strong defence of KFCB position on the matter saying his mantra was that no one was doing anything to protect children and public from pornography and other bad content being aired on TV screens. “There is a serious gap that forced us to step in and correct the mess”, Mr Mutua said, but he reminded that there was no lacuna in the law protecting children from harmful media content as the Penal Code, Chapter 63 of the Laws of Kenya fully catered for children.
Mr Oduor said that KFCB mandate only covers classification of films and stage plays, while TV, Radio and Internet content was the mandate of the Communications Authority (CA). When he questioned the efforts of CA in addressing their mandate, Ms Wanjau disclosed that CA was currently carrying out civic education programme and have already covered eleven counties. Further to this, periodically holds workshops and seminars to sensitize the public on these matters of public concern.
When Ms Mutua asked the other panelists whether we still had bad TV and Radio content, they answered in the affirmative. The point he was trying to make was that CA as regulator was doing very little, therefore he felt he could get rid of this bad content. Ms Mutua was however repeatedly asked to stick to his mandate and let other government agencies do theirs. He was also asked not to appeal to public sympathy by depicting himself as the custodian of children and public welfare and morality and also the champion of national values.
The KFCB CEO grudgingly accepted that he had been impressed by the robust discussion on the programme and promised to take back the draft bill for further amendments. Earlier, he had insisted on going ahead with the bill as he had forwarded it to the Kenya Law Reform Commission (KLRC). He was however reminded of the mandatory steps a Bill goes through before being forwarded to KLRC.
“Firstly, the policy must be formulated, followed by a stakeholder’s forum to collect and collate the views of all who have a stake in it and that is when the Draft Bill is forwarded to KLRC to peruse through and give their expert opinion. None of this was done by KFCB”, said Ms Deus.
After the backing down of KFCB, all media stakeholders can now look forward to being called upon to be part of the new process right from inception.
John is an editorial quality advisor at the Kenya Free Press.