The dust is yet settled on the Films, Stage Plays and Publications Bill, 2016 going by media coverage of the aftermath of the public participation session that followed the draft Bill. In the Standard, Kenya Film and Classification Board CEO Ezekiel Mutua said that the meeting at the National Museum was the first of a series of consultative meetings on the review of the law. He added that they will be  moving to meet other stakeholders in private and public sectors such as parents, religious institutions, consumer protection groups and other government agencies and legislators.

This position contradicts an earlier one which he is recorded to have said that the document has been trashed and the process will start afresh with input from all the relevant stakeholders.

At the forum, Mr. Mutua said it came about from the spirit of changing the current law Cap 222 in order to lower costs of rating film content which stands at sh100 after a petition from Kenyan film producers.

From a freedom of expression perspective, the Bill has serious implications on film, publishing, advertising, theatre, games, artistic creativity and online expression. While the current Act restricts KFCB’s mandate only to films, stage plays and posters for their promotional purposes, the Bill expands the mandate to include broadcast content, online content, outdoor advertisements, print publications and registration of cinemas and theatres.

Children have a legal right to be protected from all forms of exploitation and material that is likely to compromise their innocence. However, the Board is mandated to classify films and play acts to enable parents to prevent their children from accessing such content. The board is also mandated to ensure that certain material is not aired during times that children are likely to be watching TV.

The shift from regulation by classification of films to regulation creation of films is a significant change that infringes the freedom of artistic creativity secured in the Constitution.

Clause 39 (2) attempts to regulate and penalize Internet Service Providers for actions of their users.

In clause 26 (1), the power of the police or appointed persons the making of a film has a chilling effect on freedom of artist creativity.

In addition, clause 53 (1) on the determination of objectionable and non-objectionable publications left at KFCB’s board discretion. This is dangerous as they could overstep the limitations to freedom of expression not categorically outlined in Article 33 of the Constitution.

Read the statement by BAKE on the Bill.