Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Interior, Fred Matiang’i, has assured Kenyans that the government will not shut down the internet or social media in an effort to curb hate speech ahead of the general elections.
The CS admitted that the country was facing a rise in the unprecedented use of social media and spread of fake news. He said the cyberspace has been a tough call to the police, with security agencies currently dealing with several internal and external cases.
Matiang’i stated that the government is relying on a cybersecurity strategy being developed in Naivasha, Nakuru County, to combat online crime ahead of the August 9 General Election.
Speaking after officially opening the morning session of the event, Matiang’i said the government was alive to the threats posed by cyberspace.
“We are approaching elections and the big debate is how we are going to behave with each other. The strategy could not have come at a better time as it will help police to build capacity in cyberspace,” he said.
He said Kenya is a democratic country and could not engage in retrogressive acts such as internet shutdowns.
“No amount of insults will make us engage in such acts, but in the same breath, we expect those who will engage in politics to behave responsibly,” noted the CS.
He emphasized that new technology has introduced new threats to national security, economic growth, and critical infrastructure.
He acknowledged that combating cybercrime is a complex challenge for any government to address alone, emphasizing the need for a multi-sectoral approach.
ICT Principal Secretary Jerome Ochieng called on stakeholders to provide guidelines to ensure the safety of children and the nation’s future cyberspace. He said that cybercrimes targeting children were on the rise.
“Misinformation and false propaganda are some of the cyber-risks. It is, therefore, necessary to develop a national culture of cybersecurity or cyber-hygiene and where necessary strengthen online positive propaganda/news,” Mr Ochieng said.
According to Ezra Chiloba, director-general of Kenya’s Communications Authority (CA), cybersecurity threats have become dynamic and resilient.
“As we focus on the digital economy, we need to secure that space. The nation’s survival will depend on the digital economy,” he said.
According to a 2020 report from British tech research firm Comparitech on internet disruption, shutdowns in Africa happen during the election period or in cases of civil unrest.
The report said that the shutdowns in Tanzania and Uganda were ordered by the incumbent governments in a bid to silence the opposition, giving them the upper hand in the election process against the people’s will.
The United Nations believes that access to the internet in this digital age contributes to the broader range of human rights including freedom of expression, freedom of information, the right to assemble and association, the right to health care, and standard quality of life through economic activity.
Article 19 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights states that governments are required to adhere to their international human rights commitments. Nations are only required to carry out legal, necessary, and proportional restrictive measures on freedom of expression in exceptional legal cases.