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Films board wants more teeth to cut digital pornography

Chief executive officer of Kenya film classifications board Ezekiel Mutua(Center)address members of press on 16/March/2017at their office, Uchumi house in Nairobi, the board has banned importations of unlicensed foreign movies as a way of curbing piracy. PHOTO BY EDWARD KIPLIMO.

Last week, The Standard published an expose on a pornography syndicate operating from a six-bedroom house in Nairobi’s gated Savannah estate. Reporters found two sets of women having sex in front of a live webcam broadcasting the sessions to an online audience of local and international viewers.

This is not the first time such a discovery is being made in the city as the cost of producing and broadcasting digital content continue to reduce.

The issue has brought out the inadequacies of the country’s regulators, particularly the Kenya Film and Classification Board (KFCB) in dealing with pornography, pirated content and other kinds of illicit digital material.

KFCB has now embarked on an ambitious mission to introduce amendments to the Films and Stage Plays Act. The law, last revised in 2012, established and mandated the board to regulate the creation, broadcasting, possession, distribution and exhibition of films.

Ezekiel Mutua, the board’s chief executive, now wants the Act amended to give the regulator more powers, including to arrest and prosecute.

“The idea is to give KFCB prosecutorial powers to enforce the law because at the moment, our officers lack the powers and it is only KFCB that is mandated to rate and classify content,” he said.

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Mr Mutua is on a sustained campaign to convince lawmakers and other regulating agencies on the need to change the legislation to increase the board’s muscle.

KFCB says the legal system is inadequate in enforcing censorship and wants the establishment of a special police unit to crack down on pornography and other illicit content. “We are currently working with the police and the Customs authority to stop the entry of these films at the border and we will continue to fight their entry into the country, a lot of which come from China,” said Mr Mutua.

The proposals have drawn criticism from several quarters, with some warning that creating a special unit would amount to unnecessary duplication of roles.

Fighting cyber crime

“We have too many agencies who are all doing the same thing and an additional unit that is exclusive to KFCB will mean additional costs to tax payers but will do little to fight issues like child pornography and hacking,” said Michael Theuri, an ICT policy analyst based in Nairobi.

The Communications Authority of Kenya late last year launched a coordination centre for the reporting and analysis of cyber crime. In addition, the Special Crime Prevention Unit of the Kenya Police is actively engaged in fighting cyber crime and last month busted a ring of multinational hackers who had targeted several institutions including the Kenya Revenue Authority, banks and Saccos.

Mr Mutua, however, insists that KFCB’s mandate extends to the digital field and is looking to introduce new legislation that will make additional demands on Internet service providers (ISPs).

“Last week we held meetings with MPs from the Committee on Labour and Social Welfare and we all agreed that there was a need to introduce amendments to the legislation to stop the spread of inappropriate content online,” he said.

Last year, US digital streaming service Netflix launched its services in the country, prompting swift reaction from KFCB who said the firm was yet to adhere to local censorship guidelines. “We need regulation because even if this content has been rated in the US, it still needs to get a Kenyan rating because what is considered nudity in the US might not be nudity in Kenya,” said Mr Mutua.

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