60 bloggers arrested in Kenya this year – report

A report by the Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) has stated that more than 60 bloggers have been arrested this year.

While launching the report Wednesday, BAKE Chairman Kennedy Kachwanya said the police and senior government officials are constantly looking for ways ways of legally intimidating bloggers and Kenyans online.

The arrest of bloggers and journalists over remarks made on social media or blogs was seen as a way of muzzling their freedom of expression online and usually those arrested were slapped with dubious charges or locked up in police cells during weekends.

Mr Kachwanya said even as the popularity of social media has shaped opinion and driven events, for instance the closure of Chase Bank, which was blamed largely on social media, there are calls for it to be regulated.
He claimed that the acquisition of a spy software FinFisher by the National Intelligence Service (NIS) and its utility to monitor and possibly bring down web platforms is alarming.

FinFisher is a sophisticated computer spyware suite that is sold exclusively to governments’ intelligence gathering and law enforcement purposes.

But the software has in the past been abused as it has been used to monitor and spy on firms, journalists, activists, and opposition political leaders by other governments.

Mr Kachwanya also suggested that what happened to neighbouring Uganda during their last general elections where the internet was shut down might happen in Kenya in 2017.

“The possibility to either shut down the internet during the 2017 General Election in whole or in part remains a glaring possibility,” he said.

The report, titled State of the Internet in Kenya 2016 shows that blog readership has increased in the country.

It indicated that monthly readership of blogs has increased by 46 per cent from 12.4 million to 18.1 million.

Lifestyle category blogs saw the highest increase of readership at 69 per cent, business blogs came second at 46 per cent and creative writing which has for long dominated with the most readers came third at 36 per cent.

However, readership of political blogs and entertainment blogs dropped to 47 per cent and 37 per cent respectively, with the report attributing the downward trend to Kenyans getting serious with the content they interact with online.

It was also noted that the reason for a drop in the entertainment category could be because traffic is directed elsewhere especially to the ever increasing popularity of Facebook videos and YouTube.

“We have also noted an increase in intellectual property rights cases online where online content creators have seen their content used without their consent,” he added.

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