Earlier this week, Kenya’s Top Level Domain administrator KENIC brought down a legitimately registered website which they had assigned a .co.ke domain just days before. Whether or not they had a justifiable reasons to bring down the harmless website become secondary with many Kenyans realizing that KENIC could not longer be trusted to uphold the right to free speech on a locally registered web domain.
What may have initially been an ‘insignificant’ action by someone at KENIC or the current government to ‘deal with an annoying website’ may have a ripple effect and determine the future of KENIC in changing the perception that they can be controlled by the ruling government to infringe on internet freedoms that every Kenyan can and should exercises under free speech as guaranteed in the new constitution.
It is interesting that, despite this very significant incident, none of the mainstream media houses picked up on it and found it worth delving into not just as an isolated case regarding an internet user ‘disrespecting’ the president, but as a sign of what Kenic is capable of and the fact that they do cannot operate independently without government interference in upholding the use of Kenyan owned website to exercise freedom of expression by the very citizens it ought to serve and whose taxes keep it as a government agency running.
On Thursday this week, the world marked World Human Rights Day. As a country, we have so much on our plate in terms of ensuring the rights of women, girls, minorities and the poor are upheld that striving for internet rights and freedoms seems like we are trying to run before we can even walk.
However, it is important that Kenyans are aware of their rights and freedoms on the internet as a good number of our population are using this medium to express their views be they political, social, economic or religious.
Thanks to the growing rate of mobile phone and internet penetration, there are more young people using the internet as a tool for more than just communication. Many are using social media to meet and interact with friends as well as share their thoughts and opinions on various matters. This is the same group that has since the 2007 post election violence been accused of perpetrating hate speech online according to the National Cohesion & Integration Commission (NCIC) whose act is very vague on what constitutes hate speech.
It is due to the above reasons and the upcoming elections in 2017 that Kenyans ought to take more keen interest in how the current government is curtailing some freedoms online either by either intimidating bloggers and social media users or by outright sentencing without following the due legal processes.
It is for this reason that the Bloggers Association of Kenya in partnership with the Web We Want Foundation will be launching an Internet Freedoms Citizen Education Campaign based on the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms with the objectives being :-
– Create awareness on the existence of the African Declaration on Human rights and Freedoms
– Educate internet users in Kenya their rights on the internet as Citizens
– Educate Kenyans on the specific rights entitled to them as appears in the declaration and the Kenyan constitution
– Demystify each right and highlighting the current status in the country of each of the rights
– Enable Kenyans to be assertive in their quest for the right to information and the right to cultural and linguistic diversity
– Increase online and offline dialogue from enlightened and ordinary citizen on their internet rights and freedoms as well as the limitations according to the Kenyan laws.
There will be a launch event on Tuesday 15th December at the Nailab, Bishop Magua center(Ngong Road) from 5pm – 8pm
During this event, there will be a moderated conversation on the state of Internet Freedom in Kenya and the principles of the African Declaration on Internet Rights and Freedoms. A video will also be screened to help develop a deeper understanding of how existing human rights apply to the Internet user in Kenya.
This forum will address the principles carried in the African Declaration on Internet rights and Freedoms, and will focus mainly on: Freedom of Expression, Right to Information, Freedom of Assembly and Association on the Internet, Cultural and Linguistic Diversity, Privacy, Security on the Internet and Right to Due Process.
You may follow or contribute to this campaign on social media using #iFreeKe.
The event is free to attend.