Kenya’s new Security Bill

Conflict In Context - Field Notes


Kenya’s General Service Unit (GSU) police take a confrontational stance when Al Jazeera’s Nazanine Moshiri and I approach the entrance to the Westgate Mall after the attack in September 2013. Nairobi

According to a recent Reporters without Borders index Kenya ranks at #90. After today, with the new security bill, its position no doubt plummeted closer to #180, the bottom position, which Eritrea now occupies.
Kenya’s Jubilee government reacted to press coverage of Westgate Mall attack in 2013 (exposing Kenya Defense Forces looting items at the mall) and most recently of illegal and unconstitutional security operations (extrajudicial killings, mass arrests, mosque closures) by creating a Media Tribunal and, today, amending an already Draconian security bill.

Here’s a section of the new bill as it applies to the media —

66 A. ‘A person who publishes or causes to be published or distributed obscene, gory or offensive material which is likely to cause fear and alarm to the general public or disturb public peace is guilty of a felony and is liable, upon conviction, to a fine not exceeding one million shillings or imprisonment for a term not exceeding three years or both, or, where the offence is committed by a media enterprise, to a fine not exceeding five.’

Perhaps another way of saying that the media cannot display images relating to the fallout of terror attacks or of targeted killings by authorities because the images may underscore the ineptitude and illegality of some of the actions of the security apparatus.

You’d think as time marches on that with “democratization” nations are becoming safer and freer.  But in Kenya the opposite seems to be true. The nation has long been regarded by the west as an anchor state of democracy in an otherwise unstable region. These days after the election of President Uhuru Kenyatta the country you hear people complain how Kenya seems to be sliding backward toward the oppression experienced under  during the 80s under Moi.

Forget the GSU, the most fearsome is the elite Israeli-trained Recce squad:

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