“Freedom of speech is always under attack by Fascist mentality, which exists in all parts of the world, unfortunately.” -Lawrence Ferlinghetti
Of late I have noticed a trend where a lot of people irrespective of their position and class in society find themselves dragged to court for basically speaking up about their thoughts. At a glance, it seems like a good idea because some of the things the people said can be so hurtful to so many people and can cause irreparable damage. But when you give it a deeper thought, you find out that we are slipping back to an era where it was forbidden to say anything negative or to basically speak your thoughts about the things that were happening.
In 2010, we overwhelmly voted for a new constitution, believing that it would bring with it the freedom of speech which had been curtailed for a long time. But very few of us ever took the time to read and understand what was in it before we voted. With all that is going on from parliament passing new laws gagging the media and Mutahi, Muthama, and Kuria finding themselves in court, I decided to peruse the constitution and find out what it say in regards to this subject. .
Freedom of expression is a universal right to all people, because it’s only possible for people to do everything only when they can say anything. Limiting freedom of speech on the threat or fear of violence should not become an excuse or justification for restricting freedom of speech. The authors of the Kenyan constitution in chapter 33 stated that:
1) Every person has the right to
freedom of expression, which includes--
(a) Freedom to seek, receive or impart information or ideas:
(b) Freedom of artistic creativity; and
(c) Academic freedom and freedom of scientific research.
At first glance, that sounds perfect as it categorically states that we have the freedom to express our thoughts, talents, and anything else we might want to express. But either by design or mistake, they went ahead and in section two took away all the freedom they had promised in section one. Section two state that:
(2) The right to freedom of expression does not extend to--
(a) Propaganda for war;
(b) Incitement to violence;
(c) Hate speech; or
(d) Advocacy of hatred that—
(i) Constitutes ethnic incitement, vilification of others or incitement to cause harm; or
(ii) Is based on any ground of discrimination specified or contemplated in Article 27 (4).
As you can see in section two, all the freedom of expression and speech were taken away, and based on this you can find yourself in a court docket for basically saying anything, speaking your mind about things that you don’t agree with or for having a different opinion. In essence, it criminalizes our thoughts.
And as if that was not enough, they went ahead and included section three, which states:
(3) In the exercise of the right to freedom of expression, every person shall respect the rights and reputation of others.
But at this point, I don’t think they needed this section as they had already curtailed all the freedom of expression.
As we find ourselves back at square one where we were before we struggled so hard to have a new constitution, it’s time for us as citizens to become creative and come up with a way of amending the constitution to truly reflect our wishes. The easiest way would have been through parliament, but with the current parliament. There is no hope of them ever doing that since they are working day and night to take that freedom away for their own benefit. But hope is not lost since there are other ways to save ourselves, bearing in mind that the next election is just around the corner and hopefully this time we will vote on issues .