High Court Advocate and law lecturer Mugambi Laibuta was in Mombasa on Saturday the 29th of August for the Internet and law workshop in Mombasa at the MEWA Library. He was conducting the workshop alongside Riva Jalipa of Article 19. The workshop which was organised by the Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) in Mombasa for the first time in Mombasa after previous workshops were held in Nakuru, Nyeri, Kisumu and Nairobi.
In attendance were bloggers, social media enthusiasts, professionals and students from the coastal city. The training covered issues around defamation, intellectual property, freedom of information and media, plagiarism and also emphasized on social media policies among others.
The need for legal understanding for internet users in Kenya follows the increased number of bloggers and social media users that have been taken to court for defamation and misuse of telecommunication devices. There’s also a need for ethics in blogging following leaked audio where blogger Cyprian Nyakundi is alleged to have attempted to blackmail BIDCO for sh50 million in order to take down blog posts.
During the workshop, there was an agreement that some of the bloggers are going against the law by writing defamatory posts against individuals and organisations with most in agreement that legal action is necessary in some instances. However, there’s still apprehension among bloggers that laws could be used to suppress the freedom of expression and negate online content creation. Notably, it is the blogs with political content that draw most ‘fire’ thus many bloggers are opting for “safe” topics like fashion, travel or food.
The issues of copyright also drew interest from the bloggers many who are grappling with content theft on the internet. Photographers and writers are finding that other people including mainstream media use bloggers content without proper credit or attribution. Participants were enlightened on trademarks and intellectual property laws that bloggers and online content creators need to be aware of.
Mr. Davis Mbele, felt that the workshop was beneficial for people using the internet.
“I believe it’s fair to assume all who were present were enlightened about the use of the internet. The article 33 and 34 of the Constitution that talk about the freedom of speech and expression were the main highlight of the discussion. We learned that with the right to speak about anything on the internet, especially blogs, comes an even greater responsibility. That there is a legal framework to ensure we exercise the write to express ourselves in the appropriate manner as inscribed by the law”.
Blogs and social media have become ways that Kenyans are using to bring out some of the societal ills such as corruption in government and private sector. According to lawyer Mugambi Laibuta,
“There’s need for whistle blowers in Kenya. Blogs and social media are some of the ways that people can use to get word out. However, they need to be legally aware, responsible and safe in the manner they do it.”
Salim Ghalgan, MEWA’s chairman welcomed the move to hold the training in Mombasa. He said his organisation is grateful for BAKE arranging these kinds of events in Mombasa. MEWA is happy to host the event and will keep doing so to ensure that Mombasa residents get empowered through the valuable knowledge.