In Summary
  • Kenya Film Classification and Board Chief Executive Officer Ezekiel Mutua announced that an advert with “offensive kissing scenes that violate family values” would have to be edited before going back on air.
  • This is not the first time this seemingly anachronistic Board has acted in a manner that borders on suppression of the freedom of expression.
  • The Board has previously threatened international online channels with unspecified action if their ‘programming code’ does not similarly conform to our ‘national values and morality’.

After the shambolic mlolongo (queue-voting) elections of March 1988, the then President Daniel Arap Moi created several new ministries in his government, including the curiously named ministry of National Guidance and Political Affairs.

Addressing Parliament in May 1988 while requesting for supplementary funds to operationalise the new ministries, then Finance Minister George Saitoti indicated that the National Guidance ministry was meant to provide a “political, cultural and social framework for the sake of our national life”.

Supporting him, the then Assistant minister for Lands and Housing, Gideon Mutiso, enthused: “In the previous Parliaments, we have talked here about the need for this country to be guided with a kind of discipline. This discipline would, of course, apply not only to politicians themselves, but also to every other citizen of this country…”

Soon after their appointment, the minister, one James Njiru, and his assistant, Shariff Nassir, embarked on a national project to regulate thought and streamline the behaviour of all citizens.

In a reign of terror lasting a bit over a year, the minister played the perfect sycophant, purporting to discipline everyone including the then vice-president for disrespecting the president.

While claiming to delineate our national values in line with the vacuous ‘Nyayo philosophy’, the ministry engaged in a campaign of demonising dissent. Books were banned, political speeches were analysed for any ‘dissident’ expressions, and opposition politicians campaigning for restoration of multiparty democracy were dismissed as agents of foreign governments out to destabilise the Kanu.

My ruminations on those sad repressive days have been triggered by a statement released midweek by Mr Ezekiel Mutua, ostensibly on behalf of the Kenya Film Classification and Board where he is the Chief Executive Officer.

In the statement, he announced that an advert with “offensive kissing scenes that violate family values” would have to be edited before going back on air. He added that all adverts must “conform to our national values and morality”.

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