The Kenya government’s decision not to shut down the internet and also ensure the media continues to operate freely before, during and after elections has been lauded by digital rights and inclusion organizations on the continent.
Leading Pan African Digital Rights and Inclusion Organization, Paradigm Initiative (PIN) with a coalition of digital rights and inclusion organisations, under the umbrella of the NetRights Coalition and a multi-stakeholder Think Tank for people and institutions interested and involved in ICT policy and regulation, KICTANet, welcomed the Government’s commitment and urged it to remain true to it as Kenyans prepare to cast their vote on August 9th, 2022.
The coalition was quick to point out that earlier assertions by the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) to suspend Meta Inc’s Facebook platforms for allegedly failing to adhere to hate speech regulations recommended by the government were worrying.
The organizations’ pointed out that the re-assurances were issued over the weekend by Cabinet Secretary of Information Communication and Technology (ICT), Innovation and Youth Affairs, Mr. Joe Mucheru and his Interior and Coordination of National Government counterpart, Dr. Fred Matiang’i was encouraging.
Kenya, they noted, has made a step in the right direction which ought to be emulated by other countries in the region, more so those gearing for elections such as Nigeria and Angola. Nigeria is set to hold its general election on February 25th, 2023, while Angola is set to hold its general election on August 24th, 2022.
PIN and NetRights Coalition urged all parties in Kenya to uphold the right to internet access, political participation, opinion and expression. The organizations emphasized that the Kenyan right to freedom of expression is protected by Article 33 of the Constitution of Kenya 2010, while Article 34 protects freedom of the media and article 35 protects access to information.
Mr. Boye Adegoke, PIN Senior Manager on Strategy, said access to information and freedom of expression are fundamental human rights as stipulated in Article 19 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) and Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).
Ms. Grace Githaiga, KICTANet Convenor, said the move by the government is a demonstration of its effort to widen the digital rights and inclusion space in the country, adding that freedom of expression and privacy online is important as they are an extension of human rights in the internet age.
Kenya is a signatory to UDHR, ICCPR and African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, among others, and Article 2 of the country’s Constitution incorporates international law and other human rights treaties which the country has ratified directly into national law.
They stressed the need to combat ongoing disinformation, saying it is encouraging hate speech and threatening electoral integrity. The rise in sophisticated technology and ease of usage has enabled political actors to formulate and spread disinformation.