By Mzalendo Contributor – Moreen Majiwa (@mmajiwa)
On Thursday Dr. Mzalendo Kibunja, Head of the National Integration Cohesion
Commission (NCIC), announced that one of the new areas of focus for the commissions
work will be hate speech on the internet. The commission will begin monitoring social
networks and commentaries on news networks for hate speech early as April.
According to the National Integration Cohesion Commission Act of 2008 hate speech
includes using threatening, abusive and insulting words, behavior, displays or written
material, publishing or distributing such written material. Distributing, showing a play or
recording of visual images or producing or directing a programme which is threatening
abusive or insulting that intended to stir up ethnic hatred. The Act makes hate speech
a criminal offense for which offenders can receive up to 3 years in prison a fine of not
exceeding 1 million shillings or both.
Dr. Kibunja stated: “Facebook, twitter and such networks will be our main focus and I can
tell you most of the hate speech comes from Diaspora not internally.”
Its hard to imagine how NCIC will go about cataloguing ever conceivable kind of hate
speech, will the commission be cataloguing all kinds of hate speech or just hate speech
that is political or ethnic tone, how will the commission avoid the appearance of being
merely a political proceeding, and will the end result be internet regulation?
Monitoring social networks and commentary is a monumental task given the millions
of Kenyans at home and abroad that are on facebook, twitter, have blogs, and amount of
commentary on news websites.
No doubt a very good argument can be made for monitoring social media and news
websites for hate speech given the current political climate. However it is also a rights
mine-field when it comes to ensuring that freedom of expression, freedom of information,
and the right to free speech are not infringed. I wonder Commission plans to go about its