September 19th 2017

Media / Watchdog

Jubilee mooting new law to govern social media

“If the intention was to protect the reputation of others, then there are clear provisions in the law of Libel. I therefore come to the conclusion that section 29 cannot stand,” the judge ruled.

By Sandra Onindosonindo@kenyafreepress.comWednesday, 08 Jun 2016 08:57 EAT

Barely a month after the High Court obliterated a legal provision the government had used to prosecute bloggers, a new law is being proposed to regulate the use of social media.

President Uhuru Kenyatta’s social media adviser has announced that the government will soon enact a law to regulate social media platforms.

The State House director of digital communication, Dennis Itumbi, said on Saturday that social media users were abusing their freedoms and therefore needed to be regulated.

“Social media, including but not limited to Facebook and Twitter platforms are presently operating on self-regulation with no proper laws to guard against the use or misuse of the channels. Some irresponsible individuals abuse others or even declare some people they hate as being dead since they feel no legal action will be taken against them,” he said.

Speaking at Kiangima Girls Secondary school during a prize giving day, Itumbi said that bloggers and other social media users are misusing communication platforms to spread hate messages, slander the names of their supposed enemies or even pronounce them dead.

He also said that the Kenya Film Classification Board and the police had been asked to restrain the spread of hate messages prior to the 2017 general elections.

In a major win for bloggers, High Court Judge Mumbi Ngugi in April declared as unconstitutional Section 29 of the Kenya Information and Communications Act, which the government had relied on to prosecute bloggers, saying the law was too broad, vague and that it violated certain provisions of the constitution.

The section criminalized the “improper use of a licensed telecommunication system.” Without defining what amounted to such improper misuse, the law allowed the government to charge critical bloggers on just abuse any basis.

“If the intention was to protect the reputation of others, then there are clear provisions in the law of Libel. I therefore come to the conclusion that section 29 cannot stand,” the judge ruled.

The law Itumbi promised has not been published yet. It remains to be seen what its provisions will be given that crimes of defamation and libel are properly catered for in the Penal Code and other laws like the Media Act guiding professional journalism practice.

Sandra is a staff writer at the Kenya Free Press specializing in news, health and lifestyle coverage.





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