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Promoting Online Freedoms in Kenya

18th January is Internet Freedom Day
18th January is Internet Freedom Day

Why iFreedoms?

Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) has launched the iFreedoms project through the Kenya Monitor platform (www.monitor.co.ke). This project will promote internet freedom in the East African region through digital security and safety skills development, creating awareness on the status of online freedoms and how to protect them.  The project will amplify the voices of citizen journalists on freedom of expression and engagement, utilise art and culture to promote internet rights (artivism) and continue to document threats to access, privacy and security online in East Africa. We are also working towards provision of an in-house legal counsel that can advise as well as offer legal representation to our Blogger members who find themselves wrongly accused.

As documented by www.freedomhouse.org, While surveillance of the internet and mobile phones was not previously a serious concern in Kenya, worries over increasing cyber crime and potential unrest surrounding the March elections led the government to implement precautionary surveillance measures to curb the spread of hate speech. In March 2012, the Communications Commission of Kenya ( CCK) now Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK ) announced that telecom service providers needed to install the internet traffic monitoring equipment NEWS, which would help establish early responses to detected cyber threats.

Freedom of expression is enshrined in Article 33 of the Constitution of Kenya and includes the right to seek, receive or impart information and ideas, while Article 31 provides for the right to privacy.

As of May 2013, no further information is known about the extent to which service providers have complied with the installation requirement or how the system has been put into practice. Nevertheless, the interception of messages or the disclosure of their content remains a criminal offence.

The Kenyan Government is seemingly becoming quite intolerant of voices of dissent and dissident Kenyans who have continued to become more vocal on Social Media and Blogs.

The recently assented Amendment to the Security Law not only targets the media or traditional media as we now refer to it and professional Journalists, but it is also seeking to curtail the freedoms of ordinary citizens’ speech through platforms online such as social media including blogs, twitter and Facebook.
As the number and bloggers and readers of online content in Kenya continue to increase, we are seeing an increase in the variety of topics and issues covered. Indeed, there are a lot more Kenyan bloggers focusing on other topics of interest such as the governance, use of funds and developments in the counties they live in, governance, politics and other social issues.

There has also been increasing pressure on the Kenyan Government by politicians to have Kenyan bloggers regulated and to intimidate them into silence for revealing information that the public have the right to know.

The monitoring of bloggers and Social media users for negative sentiments about the government, which do not necessarily amount to hate speech have been rife with some bloggers being charged in court for posting ‘annoying tweets’ about a certain personality.

It is our hope that the existing laws will work towards the protection of all Kenyan Citizen online as well as protection of free speech rather than its misuse to selectively punish and discourage online discourse.

iFreedoms will highlight news and updates, violation incidents and legislative developments, and maintain an Information and resource repository on internet freedoms in Africa. It will also report contraventions to artists’ and artivists’ free expression.

The page is accepting and highlight stories, images, audio and video footage from the public which will then be verified and edited by a team of editors and then published. It will also track and aggregate any media (Text, Audio, visual) on Social media sites regarding threats to online speech.

 

About Njeri Wangari

Njeri Wangari is the Project Lead for Kenya Monitor, a Citizen Journalism site for news and stories by Kenyans a project of the Bloggers Association of Kenya. Njeri is also the BAKE's Director of programs managing training and outreach programs. She is a multi-talented published Poet, blogger, Art & Tech enthusiast who started blogging in 2005. Njeri is very passionate about Citizen Journalism and expresses her passion through training workshops, talks and her writing on the same. Njeri is also equally passionate about Arts & Culture and Technology and writes on them through her blogs KenyanPoet.com and AfroMum.com

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