Report by Boera Bisieri
Photos by David ‘Kiki’ Kariuki
Published October 12, 2016
Kenya’s film classification board has hurriedly convened a meeting to cool down rising tempers of artists, legal experts and rights activists over a contentious bill it has drafted to ‘regulate’ what is created, performed, exhibited, distributed, and consumed in Kenya.
During the meeting that was held at Nairobi National Museum on October 11, Ezekiel Mutua, the Chief Executive Officer of Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) said the proposed bill, that is to replace the current Films, Stage Plays and Publications law (Chapter 222 of the Laws of Kenya), aims to “lower the high cost of rating of film which now stands at Sh100 [US1] per minute.”
George Gachara, who represents The Nest Collective, said the proposed law would destroy art in Kenya; that it would increase costs of filmmaking, raise the amount of fines, curtail the creation of art and protect KFCB from prosecution.
Wambui Kairu of One Boy Production denied Mutua’s claim that she had been involved in the drafting of the contentious bill.
Also speaking in the meeting that was held in the Louis Leakey Auditorium at Kenya’s house of culture was Angela Wachuka of Kwani Publishers. She expressed concern that the proposed bill seemed to be geared towards crippling rather than supporting the growth of the creative sector through censorship and not classification. She cautioned KFCB to confine itself to classification of films and not seek to regulate the whole creative sector.
The meeting–that drew participation from movie-makers, distributors and exhibitors; Kenya Bloggers Association; Gay and Lesbian Coalition of Kenya, Screenwriters Guild; Kenya Publishers Association; The Creative Economy Working Group’ Kisumu Actors Union; among others—unanimously called upon KFCB to ‘trash’ the proposed Film, Stage Plays and Publications Bill 2016 as a sign of good faith and that there should be a return to the discussion on the film policy by the stakeholders to set the stage for further action on this issue.
But KFCB’s aversion to the call not only led to unrest in the room as participants shouted angrily, but to premature ending of the meeting at 11:45 AM instead of the scheduled 5:00 PM.
Charles Ouma of Kenya School of Law who had been contracted by KFCB to take the stakeholders through the draft and ensuing discussion, lost control of the meeting. But not before he had acknowledged that stakeholders had not been actively engaged in the bill. He said the document was not a draft bill—though that is how it is saved on the KFCB website—but a starting point to begin the discussion that would lead to the review of Cap 222. He further noted that “The idea is to make the current law more responsive to the present environment.
No sooner had Mutua publicly stated that KFCB had agreed to withdraw the draft bill than the meeting ended.
Sally Mshai Mwangola, a performance scholar who had on the eve of the meeting sent out e-mails inviting people to ‘Stakeholder’s meeting on Tuesday October 11th 2016 at the National Museum of Kenya’s Louis Leakey Auditorium from 8:30am’, had said she had “absolutely no official role to play in this process, except as an invested citizen.”
Dr Mwangola had noted that “The title of the bill is somewhat deceptive. This is not only about films, stage plays and publications as it is indicated above. It would be bad enough if it was . But it also includes everything else from drawings and posters to online content. It regulates what is created, distributed, imported, exhibited or performed; what you can have at home.”
Were the draft bill to become law in its present form, Mshai Mwangola, had said, the functions of KFCB will be to:
(a) Monitor and enforce compliance with the provisions of this Act
(b) Classify films, broadcast and online content, stage performances, gaming applications, publications and related promotional materials;
(c) Impose age restriction on viewership
(d) Register local and international filmmakers, agents, distributors and exhibitors.
(e) Develop standards, regulations and guidelines for the film industry;
(f) Advice the government on the regulation of the film industry;
(g) Develop a national catalogue of classified films;
(h) Protect children from exposure to disturbing and harmful materials and from premature exposure to adult experiences;
(i) Prevent the use of children in pornographic productions;
(j) Prevent the exposure of children to all forms of pornography.
(i) The creation, exhibition and distribution of films and stage performances
(ii) The exhibition of broadcast or online content, outdoor advertising and games that not reflective of national values and aspirations of the people of Kenya.
While musician Valentine Kamau (Valentine Ziki), in a post on Facebook cautions: “Ezekiel Mutua is seeking to make censorship of stage plays, events, literature, the internet one of KFCB’s mandate,” Cajetan Boy of Et Cetera Productions, also in a Facebook post, calls upon players in the movie sector to “Get into a guild. Make sure the house is in order. Get registered. The next move is to lock out individuals not in guilds and non registered guilds. And KFCB is planning follow up meeting soon with ‘legitimate’ stakeholders.
KFCB may have held the meeting, but the controversy its draft bill has generated is yet to be put to rest. Artist are now calling for the repeal of Cap 222 and the disbandment of KFCB.