Kenya: Censorship – Filmmakers Catch-22 Over Cap 222
Acclaimed director Wanuri Kahiu has joined the Creative Economic Working Group to call for the urgent repeal of the Kenya Film and Stage Plays Act (Chapter 222 of the Laws of Kenya, or simply Cap 222) to create a freer space for expression. art in Kenya.
Recent steps taken by the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) to ban, restrict and condemn creative work using Cap 222 have been called imminent for the growth of the creative industry in Kenya.
“For more than 50 years, backward laws have suppressed bold artistic expression, criminalized art and artists, and even saw Kenya lose some of its greatest minds and talents. making, exhibiting and licensing films and plays in Kenya, ”said Wanuri, producer of the film Rafiki.
Rafiki is one of the works banned in Kenya because it deals with gays and lesbians. However, it is accepted and celebrated abroad for its cultural diversity, quality production and talent.
Other artists who have found themselves at daggers drawn with the film committee are Bahati, Eric Omondi, Otieno Aloka, among many others. These artists have seen their creations banned, withdrawn, impounded, contracts canceled, threatened, arrested and even sentenced to prison, due to the use of draconian cinema laws.
“These laws not only hamper the rights of creators to exercise their right to freedom of expression, which includes the freedom of artistic creation, but they are also incompatible with the values that we seek to espouse as a nation through our Constitution. We will continue to fight against laws that have no place in our democratic Kenyan society, ”Wanuri added.
According to Peter Mudamba, program director of the Docubox East Africa Film Fund and member of the Creative Economic Working Group, a review of the law is urgently needed.
“It is said that over 55 years of independence and 11 years after the promulgation of the current Constitution, we are still grappling with laws such as Cap 222 used by colonialists to oppress the natives. As creators. , we know that freedom of expression is a right and not a privilege, ”he said.
“The repeal of CAP 222 is and must be presented openly as the struggle and struggle of artists within the framework of the Creative Economic Working Group. Creatives must come together to continue fighting for our rights,” adds Mudamba.
In a report titled The State of Artistic Freedom 2021, one of the main obstacles to freedom of artistic expression in Kenya in 2020 was the Film and Stage Play Act which requires a license and authorization from the Film Rating Committee. before audiovisual content can be created. or distributed.
Martin Munyua, president of the Kenya Film and Television Professionals Association, who is also a leading filmmaker, describes freedom of expression as “the oxygen that every creator breathes”.
“Without it, there is no life in any creative space,” he opines.
Power to censor a film script
He further calls on censorship bodies to categorize the age groups that can consume these creative works rather than banning them.
“I find that the KFCB as a classification board tends to overstep its mandate by banning creative productions as opposed to classification. I also find a contradiction in the role of the KFCB as an issuer of film licenses before the filming.
“The board’s belief that Cap 222 gives it the power to censor a film script and refuse to issue a film license based on a theme or synopsis without knowing how a director will block and shoot the scene is outdated, if not totally against the law that speaks of freedom of expression in the current Constitution, ”said Munyua.
Players are counting on the Kenya Film Bill 2020, which was developed by the Ministry of Information, Communication and Technology and is being developed to be presented to Parliament, to be the much needed intervention.
The bill is designed to be more constitutional and to enable it to respond to the changing demands of the creative industry.
According to Professor Kimani Njogu, chairman of the creative economy working group, the law being drafted is an important development in the film industry. He believes this will contribute to synergies between agencies in the film industry by delineating their mandates and functions.
“This will reduce duplication and support the prudent use of public resources. The establishment of the Kenya Film Fund is essential for the industry. The establishment of the Kenya Film Academy is equally important,” said Professor Njogu.
It is hoped that industry will play a major role in self-regulation and that agencies will do their utmost to build capacity and infrastructure. There is a lot of talent in Kenya and we have to let it thrive. The Kenya Film Act (proposed) can open avenues for artists by facilitating implementation, ”he added.
The draft law being drafted aims to rationalize the film industry and eliminate the overlapping functions of the institutions governing the vast industry. It provides new guidelines for the establishment, composition and functions of the Kenya Film Commission (KFC) and KFCB.
It also proposes the consolidation of the laws which establish and govern the two entities. These are the KFC, whose mandate is to develop, promote and market the film industry locally and internationally; and the KFCB, which will act as the regulatory body concerned with the creation, broadcast, distribution and exhibition of films in the country.
Former KFCB boss Ezekiel Mutua, contacted by Buzz last week before his ouster was announced, has maintained the firm stance of the current laws.
“No film or class of film for public exhibition should be made without a filming license from the board of directors,” he said.
The challenged law was initially intended to regulate film making in colonial Kenya as independence approached. Article 5 states that no film can be shot in Kenya without a film script approved by KFCB.
Articles 8 and 9 further complicate the process of editing a script after acquiring a shooting license. This can only be done with the approval of KFCB.
Article 9 gives the boss of KFCB the right to have a police officer present during a film shoot. But not only that; he gives said officer the right to stop the unwinding of the film reel if he doesn’t like what is happening.