NCIC is right to crack down on social media hate mongers – #WhatsAppAdmins

WhatsApp Group Admins are up in arms against Francis Ole Kaparo, reason being the decision by NCIC to ago after social media hate mongers hellbent on inciting Kenyans against one another. In a press conference jointly held by the Ministry of Interior and Coordination of National Government and the Judiciary explaining the country’s preparedness towards the general elections, NCIC Chairman Ole Kaparo called out on 21 County WhatsApp Groups in which propaganda and falsehoods are spread.

“We have identified, for example, 21 county platforms that have been encouraging incitement and hate speech across the country”, said Francis Ole Kaparo during the press conference.  Accordingly, NCIC in collaboration with the police have already gone out to search for and arrest the WhatsApp Group Administrators responsible for those groups, a move that seems not to please a number of WhatsApp Group Members and Administrators. Under the hashtag #WhatsAppAdmins on Twitter, a few individuals complained against the move with messages such as:

 

The line of reasoning for most of those against the intended crackdown on rogue WhatsApp Group Administrators is that NCIC hasn’t come out guns blazing against politicians who are spewing hate messages in campaign trails. This reasoning is faulty for two reasons: one being that NCIC was categorical that it had deployed agents and investigators across the country to gather evidence of hate messages in every constituency, and secondly that if it appears that the institution is not doing enough in one front for one reason or another, that doesn’t mean they should lax their muscles in dealing with another problem emanating from a different sphere.

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When it comes to hate messages, it is important to note that Kenyan constitution in Article 33 provides for freedom of expression, but in section 2 of the same article the constitution outlines exceptions to the freedom. The exceptions include:

(a) propaganda for war;
(b) incitement to violence;
(c) hate speech; or
(d) advocacy of hatred that—
(i) constitutes ethnic incitement, vilification of others or incitement to cause harm

In exemplifying the types of hate messages being spread across the WhatsApp Groups, Francis Ole Kaparo said, “For example, just last week, we had one posting that all Kikuyus must go back to central province, and if they don’t they must be eliminated. And you know who posted that? A Kikuyu. Another one from Busia posted that there have been mass slaughter of non Kikuyus in Limuru. You all know nothing of the sort happened.”

Such messages, although meant to agitate Kikuyus or Luhyas/Luos to turn out not only to vote in large numbers but also to ensure they don’t vote for Raila or Uhuru respectively, can be used by emotional members of the communities to organise retaliatory response for a non-existent violence – if not now then immediately after the announcement of results on presidential elections.

NCIC has also threatened to ask Communications Authority to shut down social media if the hate messages do not stop. This however must never be pursued, not matter what. Although the constitution of Kenya provides for exceptions in the rights to freedom of expression, the first section of that article of the constitution explicitly states that every Kenya has not only the right to speak freely but also to pursue access to information. The Article in section 1 states:

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(1) Every person has the right to freedom of expression, which includes—
(a) freedom to seek, receive or impart information or ideas;

In this era of social media, there is no better way for individuals to both seek and impart information or ideas than through social media itself. We as a free country cannot therefore even attempt to think of shutting down social media – that shouldn’t be considered even when a State of Emergency as contemplated in Chapter 4 of the Constitution is declared. We for example can never ban speaking simply because a few use the ability to speak to insult others.

Odipo Riaga
Managing Editor at KachTech Media
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