24 October 2012

Kenya: Communication Commission Issues Rules On Political SMS

Photo: © Julius Mwelu/IRIN
Youth carry crude weapons ready to fight during 2008 election violence (file photo).

Nairobi — Politicians seeking to send campaign messages through bulk SMS to the electorate will have to forward them to mobile service operators at least 48 hours before their scheduled dispatch, in new stringent rules revealed by the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) on Wednesday.

The regulator's new guidelines will in essence prohibit politicians from sending unsolicited campaign text messages, in a bid to avoid the unrest experienced in the 2008 General Elections.

Further, such messages will only be sent during the day between 8 a.m. and 6p.m and only in Kiswahili or English.

In addition, any messages originating from a political party or individual candidate must be authorised by the political party or individual together with signed copies of the party's registration papers.

Mobile operators will also be able to filter messages being transmitted through their networks and turn down any content that is deemed inciting or discriminatory.

In June, Safaricom announced its own guidelines aimed at reining in negative political messages ahead of the General Election.

Meanwhile, CCK will be switching off unregistered SIM cards on December 31, following its recent crackdown on counterfeit phones in September.

CCK Director General Francis Wangusi said the regulator will give individuals the months of November and December to register their SIM cards using their national IDs.

"Kenyans better get their National IDs in order to continue communicating on the networks come 31st December," he said.

Wangusi said CCK has finalised regulations on the registration of SIM cards with various stakeholders including the service providers and are waiting for the Ministry of Information to promulgate them.

He adds that with mobile phones increasingly becoming integrated in daily activities, the devices need to be secure as they could one day act as another form of identification.

"We want the networks to be as secure as your ID. Your phone will soon be your ATM card, credit card and key and unless that phone is secure, those applications will not be possible," he explained.

The CCK switched off one million fake handsets in September, as part of its efforts to eradicate the market of the estimated 2.5 million counterfeit phones.

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