Several bloggers particularly throughout this year have been arrested for misuse of communication equipment. One being Mr Abraham Mutai who was arrested for his online account associated with Mr Mutai on the popular micro-blogging site which had been used to post allegations of corruption and misuse of funds in Isiolo, Wajir and Mombasa counties. Another is Alai, who was put behind bars by Kenyan police and released on a Khs100,000 bail after he posted a tweet accusing a government official of ordering murder hits on two human rights activists.
While this seems to be unfair play by the authorities, justifying one’s actions by claiming their right to freedom of expression may not always be correct.
It was noted that Alai, writer for technology website techmtaa.com, like other bloggers were accused of infringing Sec. 29 of the Kenya Information and Communication Act which states, “a person who by means of a licensed telecommunication system a) sends a message or other matter that is grossly offensive or of an indecent, obscene or menacing character, or b) sends a message that he knows to be false for the purpose of causing annoyance, inconvenience or needless anxiety to another person commits an offense and shall be liable on conviction to a fine not exceeding fifty thousand shillings, or to imprisonment for a term not exceeding three months, or to both.”
Basically, he was accused of committing defamation, part b of Section 29. One may tackle that defamation is contrary to the Constitution given right of freedom of expression, hence void in law, however it’s important to note that this freedom has its limitations. Particularly where one assaults another person’s good name which causes an injury to that person.
Defamation has two categories and it takes place either in writing (libel) or orally (slander). When it comes to social media, libel is a publication of false and malicious statements on a blog or micro blogging sites like twitter, Face Book, My Space, and LinkedIn by making a post.
Going back to Alai, the blogger tweeted on his @RobertAli Twitter account, which has over 20,000 followers; that he believed that government spokesperson “Alfred Mutua ordered the execution of G.P. Oula and Oscar King’ara calling them Mungiki. He wants to do the same to me.” He however, did not present any evidence regarding his public tweet, and has merely pointed to online articles alleging a link between Mutua and the murders, making his statement false, malicious, and slanderous, to the detriment of Alfred Mutua. Thus allowing him to be subject to the consequences of defamation.
Needless to say there has also been rather unfair treatment of bloggers, such as Judith Akolo, who was summoned by police and questioned for hours for re-tweeting a tweet questioning why an advert for police promotions was released on the eve of the deadline. While some arrests may be reasonable, it’s clear that there has been erratic misuse of Section 29 of the Information and Communication Act regarding ‘improper use of a licensed telecommunication gadget’ by state officials to target those communicating online. Probably abuse of law intertwined with corruption, attempting to keep controversial bloggers quiet. Yet there’s only so much you can control, if you as a blogger know that you have not committed libel, meaning that there is legitimate research or evidence backing your allegations, then you are entirely entitled to your right of freedom of expression, including the freedom to seek, receive, or impart information or ideas.