From the colonial to post-independence eras, Kenyan governing authorities have maintained an ambivalent stance concerning content policy. Infrastructural support for various forms of content has been enabled with varying success over the years, but the substance of content receives great scrutiny, is closely regulated, and in some instances has been outrightly banned. Different content-related policies and laws also reveal a dynamic society that is changing in its socio-cultural conventions, growing in its economic output, and uneasily subject to a conservative, sometimes heavy-handed politico-regulatory structure.
The terms ‘content’ and ‘content ‘policy’ are broad in possible interpretation. Aspects of content – such as cyber security and digital content – have been addressed in other reports such as those by Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) (2018) and Global Partners Digital (2016). This document drew from those accounts as it established a working definition of the term ‘content policy’ and developed a guiding framework that enabled a wide understanding within a manageable scope. While acknowledging the multiple forms of policy making at institutional, individual, and government levels- the document focused on policy-making as undertaken by governing authorities. This document found that where the Constitution guarantees freedom of expression and of media, it allows us to assume that content – its creation, production, and dissemination – is fundamentally a human right.
Content is also big business, especially with the entry of digital media where there are multiple avenues of generating revenues relating to information. An Entertainment and Media Outlook Report (PwC, 2015) noted that in 2015, Kenya’s entertainment and media industry – source of various forms of content – had grown by 9.1% from the previous year to be worth US$2.2. billion and was projected to be worth US$3.3 billion in 2020 (PwC, 2015).
But on the political front, content can be a trouble-maker, in a nation that has transitioned from colonial rule to post-colonial single party rule to evolving multi-party democracy. Socially or politically controversial subjects have led to the banning of plays, television programs or films, as well as detentions and exiling of the content creators. The post-election violence that followed the 2007 election contributed to a sensitivity against hate speech that has been enshrined in the Constitution. Thus the regulation of content receives heightened attention in civil and policy discourse. Laws relating to film, media, access to information, for example have aspects relating to regulating various forms of expression.
There is a tension then about content policy that emerges at the intersection of the economic, political, and human rights points of view. On the whole, content policy in Kenya has achieved great gains in its establishment but receives mixed reviews in how it is implemented. Ngugi (2008) observed that in matters of freedom of expression, our society has experienced great change but little transformation. It is a view that may be extended to various facets of content policy addressed in this document. There are laws enacted in the past two decades that promote an independent press, individual and community rights to information, and copyright and regulatory protections among others. But the implementation of these laws is not always consistent and incidences of media censorship, as well as bureaucratic and other barriers to accessing information speak to some of the prevailing concerns.