The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) has announced new rules to govern the use of SMS ahead of the Kenyan elections in March, designed at combating hate speech and other communications that could provoke tribal violence.
Kenyans are due to go to the polls on March 4, 2013.
Following the violence that occurred after the last election, the Kenyan security systems are leaving nothing to chance and are determine to crack down on hate speech and the encouragement of ethnic tension through technology such as mobile phones.
CCK Director General Francis Wangusi has directed all politicians who wish to send bulk campaign messages that they must be sent to the telecom operators at least two days before their send date, allowing such messages to be vetted before they are sent.
“In light of what happened in the 2007 General Election, it has now become necessary to regulate the transmission of bulk political content over mobile networks in order to insulate the county from political chaos,” he said. “Mobile network operators will now exercise greater oversight over political messages transmitted through their infrastructure.”
Under the new rules, such messages will only be sent during the day and can only be written in English or Swahili, further limiting the potential of politicians to stir up tribal feelings during the run-up to the election. Messages from a particular political party or candidate must be authorised by the party or individual and provided alongside copies of registration papers.
Any subscribers found to have sent divisive or hate-mongering text messages will be charged with incitement to violence, with the penalty being a fine not exceeding one million shillings, imprisonment of not more than three years, or both.
Safaricom has already said that it will work with the new proposals, and turn down content that is considered to be discriminatory. The telecom, which has by far the largest share of Kenya’s mobile market with 70 percent of the country’s 29 million subscribers, already revealed its own guidelines in June.