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Kenya issues hate speech warning prior to 'Saba Saba' rally

Kenya issues hate speech warning as 'Saba Saba' rally looms.

Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) warns broadcasters as political tensions grow.

Simmering political tensions in Kenya have prompted the country’s communications authority to warn broadcasters over hate speech.

The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) issued the warning on Sunday: a day before a planned mass political rally dubbed ‘Saba Saba’ by the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD).

The rally is expected to take place in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.

The leader of CORD, Kenya’s former prime minister Raila Odinga, is calling for dialogue with Kenya’s ruling Jubilee coalition over issues facing the East African nation.

Odinga has called for more debate on terror attacks that have hit Kenya from the likes of Somali militant group al Shabaab. He also wants to discuss other issues such as corruption and how to represent all ethnic groups in government.

But concerns exist that the rally could spark violence, reminiscent of ethnic tensions that erupted in Kenya in 2007 and 2008 after a disputed presidential election.

“It has come to the attention of the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) that some broadcast stations are taking advantage of the prevailing political situation in the country to air content containing hate speech or that may divide the country along ethnic lines,” said Mutua Muthusi, the director of consumer and public affairs for the CA, on Sunday.

“The Authority hereby wishes to remind broadcasters that the constitutionally guaranteed Freedom of Expression does not extend to spread of hate speech, propaganda for war, incitement to violence, advocacy of hatred that, among others, constitutes ethnic incitement, vilification of others persons or community or incitement to cause harm,” Muthusi said.

Analyst for Informa Telecoms & Media in East Africa, Danson Njue, said the CA is right to issue such a warning, especially as the regulator awards broadcast licences in the country.

“I think it’s in their mandate to see that whatever they broadcast is within the obligations of their licences,” Njue told ITWeb Africa.

“What the CA is doing is that it doesn’t want to be blamed if something happens,” he said.

Njue does not think the CA’s warning could result in self-censorship by broadcasters.

“I wouldn’t want to say the warning is going to affect media freedom, because again … you can’t have absolute freedom on everything,” Njue told ITWeb Africa.

After Kenya’s ethnic violence of 2007 and 2008, the country has cracked down on hate speech on the internet and social media as well.

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