9 January 2013

Kenya: Crackdown On Hate Speech Starts Today

Photo: Capital FM
Police have been issued with new recording gadgets to monitor hate propagators (file photo).

GOVERNMENT is today expected to announce a number of measures aimed at controlling hate speech, especially on the social media.

Information PS Bitange Ndemo, IEBC chair Issack Hassan, Inspector General of Police David Kimaiyo and National Cohesion and Integration Commission boss Mzalendo Kibunjia will address a press conference to announce the action the government will take.

Today's press conference follows a meeting by Permanent Secretaries on Monday evening at the Office of the President chaired by Public Service boss Francis Kimemia. They are concerned that is hate speech in the social media and some FM stations that almost replicates 2007.

Some 1,300 people died and 350,000 others displaced by the 2007-08 post-election violence. Most hate messages were circulated via SMS and emails then.

"We are tracking all hate speakers, war mongers and peddlers with special focus on media and some FM stations. Some of the abusive, highly corrosive, divisive, tribalistic messages and blogs are criminal," Kimemia said yesterday.

"We are zeroing and identifying individuals by name for prosecution. Our specialised team will work with ICT and security services, within and beyond to net the perpetrators and or jam or even cancel licenses for those heinous networks."

The NCIC and National Steering Committee on Media Monitoring are currently studying 921 comments and articles posted on social media in the last two months to prosecute those involved.

"After the process of sifting is over, NCIC will pick it up from NSCMM and hand them over to the Director of Public Prosecutions for action," said NCIC vice chair Millie Lwanga.

NSCMM secretary Mary Ombara cautioned media houses giving room to bloggers to spread hate messages. "We are concerned that media managers are failing to enforce the legal requirements of hate speech under the excuse that there are no specific cyber laws to this effect. There are constitutional provisions for this and it will be critical to apply these in the current fragile context in the county," she said.

"In the event of the of any violence during the elections, media houses will once again find themselves carrying a huge part of the blame."

Ombara named possible hotspots as Mombasa, Kisumu, Garissa, Eastleigh, Teso and Malaba. She said the committee had noted a radical shift from traditional media to blogs for hate speech.

"Our attention has been drawn to specific blogs run by specific mainstream media houses. These have become a cesspit of tribalism and hate mongering which cannot be allowed," Ombara added.

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