Kenya’s communication authority issues a warning to media on live protest coverage.

ezra chiloba

Media outlets in Kenya that disobey its rules for covering demonstrations have been warned by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) with losing their broadcast licences and licence renewals.

Six television stations were called into question by the authorities in a statement dated March 22, 2023, for their live coverage of the Raila Odinga-led demonstrations on Monday, which resulted in the shooting death of a student, over 200 arrests, and over 30 police personnel hurt.

Ezra Chiloba, the director general of the authority, has criticised NTV, Citizen TV, K24, KBC, TV47, and Ebru TV for airing the Monday protests, which he claims generated panic and was an act of provocation against the public that jeopardised peace.

The Communication Act of Kenya’s key regulations regarding broadcasting, as indicated by Chiloba in the interim, have been recalled to media organisations. Failure to comply will result in legal repercussions. Since then, Monday and Thursday are designated as national protest days by Odinga.

1. Section 33 of the Constitution of Kenya as read together with Section 5B of the Kenya Information and Communication Act, provides that the constitutionally guaranteed right to Freedom of Expression, does not extend to propaganda for war, incitement to violence, hate speech or advocacy of hatred that constitutes ethnic incitement, vilification of others, or incitement to cause harm or discrimination;

2. Clauses 461 (1) (a) Kenya Information and Communications Act which requires licensed broadcasters to provide responsible and responsive programming that caters for the varied needs and susceptibilities of different sections of the Kenyan community;

3. Clauses 19 (1) (c) and (d) Kenya Information and Communications (Broadcasting) Regulations which require a licensee to ensure that no broadcasts by its station -glorify violence or depict violence in an offensive manner; or is likely to incite, perpetuate hatred, vilify any person or section of the community;

4. Clause 10.2.1 of the Programming Code which requires broadcasters to take care in coverage of crisis situations so as not to hinder or obstruct efforts by authorities to resolve the situation.

According to CA, failure to comply with the stipulated obligations would be considered a breach of license conditions, which could result in the revocation of a broadcast license and/or broadcast frequencies.

The relevant provisions of the law would also hold the violators liable for their actions.