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Kenyan lawyer examines regulations governing new online media

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - The article below is part of a new blog series that contains the views of ARTICLE 19's partners in Africa and the Middle East. They describe the situation of freedom of expression and media freedom in their countries, propose ideas and seek solutions to common issues concerning freedom of expression and media freedom.

New media in Kenya: Time for regulation?
By Grace Mutung'u
13 September 2012


'New Media in Kenya: Time for Regulation?' considers the Kenyan government's legislative and policy responses to the challenges of new media online. Access to the internet in Kenya has developed significantly over recent years. However, concerns about the internet's contribution to the conflict and divisions of the post-election violence has led to the monitoring of online content. Grace summarises the principal national laws that regulate and restrict freedom of expression in Kenya. She also identifies the key future challenges as internet identity, content integrity, privacy, data protection, the role of internet intermediaries and copyright protection. Grace highlights the international laws to which Kenya is bound and concludes her article with a concise set of recommendations for protecting and respecting rights to freedom of expression and information in Kenya.


New Media is defined principally as the revolution media that allows interactivity between the producers of content and consumers. It has defied traditional models of media in many senses. For instance, producers of content are also consumers, hence the term “prosumers”.

Kenya has over 17 million Internet users, with a significant number of these being active in the new media space.[1] There is an active online community in popular social networking sites, Facebook and Twitter. While content generated in these sites by Kenyans varies from random babble, conversation, pass along value, self promotion to spam and news[2], these sites provide a platform for debate on topical issues and especially politics. For example, recently when Cable News Network (CNN) ran a misinforming story depicting that violence had broken out in Kenya, micro-bloggers on Twitter and Facebook sustained a campaign that led to the withdrawal of the story by CNN. [3]

While on a global scale there are attempts[4] to regulate new media, not many countries, least of all developing ones, have legislated on new media. States are therefore using existing, “real world” laws and ad hoc policies to tackle issues brought about by new media. This paper examines some emerging issues in new media and laws that have been applied to new media. It concludes with recommendations to secure openness in the new media and protection of freedom of expression as well as other interrelated human rights.


Kenya is a signatory to International and regional instruments guaranteeing the right to freedom of expression and the right of access to information such as the Universal Declaration on Human Rights (UDHR)[5], the International Convention on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)[6], the African Charter on Human and People's Rights (ACHPR)[7] and the World Summit on the Information Society's Declaration of Principles[8] where parties commit to media pluralism and diversity.

The standards regarding freedom of expression apply to online expression. In 2011 the UN Human Rights Committee stated in General Comment No 34[9] that the ICCPR protects all forms of expression and the means of their dissemination, including all forms of electronic and Internet-based modes of expression.[10] At the same time, the UN Human Rights Committee noted the differences between traditional and electronic information dissemination systems, and observed that the laws should take these differences into account.[11]

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