Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) has put on notice TV and radio broadcasters who contravene the Programming Code by spreading hate speech and incitement to violence as the country gears towards the general elections in August this year.
CA board chairman Ngene Gituku said stern action, including revocation of licenses and frequency spectrum, will be taken against broadcasters who allow politicians to use their platforms to polarize the country.
The Programming Code for free-to-air radio and television services in Kenya came into effect in July 2016.
The Code outlines the “Election Period” to mean the period between publication of a notice by the electoral body for a Presidential, Parliamentary or County election and the gazettement of the election results. According to the Code, radio and television broadcasters have an obligation to serve the public interest at all times. This includes provision of equitable coverage and opportunities to registered political parties participating in an election.
“As the country approaches the General Election in 2017, the Communications Authority of Kenya wishes to remind broadcasters on the regulatory provisions governing the responsible use of broadcasting platforms,” Gituku said. “The Authority expects the Broadcasters to abide by the provisions in the Code in relation to election period and political parties. This is not only a legal requirement but also the public responsibility of the media to uphold the democratic principles of our nation particularly during the election period.”
The Constitution stipulates that the county’s general election be held in August of the fifth year of the preceding elections. The CA Director General Francis Wangusi said while the Constitution provides for the right to freedom of expression, it also sets out limitations to exercising the right to freedom of expression, as it is unlawful to spread propaganda for war, incite violence and spread hate speech.
The Kenya Information and Communications (Broadcasting) Regulations, 2009 provide guidelines for the “polling period” which covers the period when national general elections are held, election campaigns, the post-election and referendum periods.
Under section 25 of the regulations licensees are expected to ensure that they provide equitable coverage and opportunities to registered political parties participating in an election and in particular to presidential candidates.
It also obligates licensees to ensure that the name of the political party or sponsor, if any, on whose behalf a broadcast is made, is announced, immediately before the commencement and immediately after such broadcast. The regulations also stipulate that the employees of a licensee who wish to be candidates for any elective position(s) resign from their employment with the licensee during polling period.