Why Kenya’s New Film Licenses Are Causing Protests Online

by Meera Pattni

On 27 April 2018, the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) banned the lesbian love story Rafiki from cinemas across the country. The KFCB made headlines across Kenya again less than a month later, after the board announced that filmmakers must obtain a license for filming.

Announced via the KFCB’s twitter account, the organisation stated that those who wanted to produce videos for public use had two weeks to obtain a license. Filming without a license could incur a fine of 100,000 Kenyan shillings (£738) and up to five years in prison.

The changes could affect freedom of speech for Kenyan social media users, as well as impacting the country’s up and coming creative industry.

“The implications will be tremendous in a negative sense,” explains Kenyan writer Haroun Risa.

“Many creatives want to get their content out there but they also want to earn a living from it, something that’s very hard with the excessive and absurd license fees. They show that the KFCB intends to choke Kenyan creativity & freedom of expression.”

Haroun started a petition to protest against the bill, which has surpassed its target of 1,000 signatures. “The signatures in the petition show clearly why Kenyans want the KFCB gone,” he said. Haroun added that Kenyans want a new mandate of classification that won’t deny them to freely express themselves.

The cost of a filming license is dependent on the length of the film. For a short film, it cost 5,000 Kenyan shillings (£36.80); a full-length feature film costs KSHS 15,000 Kenyan shillings (£110), with an additional charge of 1,000 Kenyan Shillings (£7) per day for filming. The total sum is costly for the average Kenyan.

“I know most people will start holding back on putting content out there, simply because they don’t make the amount of money the KFCB is charging per video,” explains one Nairobi based podcaster, who goes by Queen Gathoni.

Kenyans also took to social media to express their frustration over the bill.

“For these people in power to say we are safeguarding Kenyan norms,” said law student Jaaziyah Shiraz on Instagram, “why don’t you start with dealing with things that really matter such as the poverty and corruption that is ruining this country or is that a part of our norms?”

Featured Image by Arnold Latika

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