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Safeguard Kenya’s electoral freedoms within the Digital Age

0


Columnists

Safeguard Kenya’s electoral freedoms within the Digital Age


Unbiased Electoral and Boundaries Fee [IEBC] Chairman Wafula Chebukati. PHOTO | JEFF ANGOTE | NMG

Abstract

  • Maybe as a result of quickly evolving nature of digital applied sciences, there isn’t any single resolution to addressing the data dysfunction.
  • Stakeholders have been growing authorized and coverage responses to aim to mitigate the harms prompted by means of social media platforms.
  • These have remained primarily reactive and, for governments, usually punitive. Kenya isn’t any exception.

Preparations to safeguard the credibility of Kenya’s upcoming 2022 common elections are underway. Relative to earlier election cycles, stakeholders have elevated their deal with the position performed by digital applied sciences in numerous democratic processes and for a great motive.

From a more-connected- than-ever voter populace to mis- and disinformation, to cases of incitement to violence, networked applied sciences — on account of their instantaneous and peer-to-peer nature —have amplified harms going through democracies.

Maybe as a result of quickly evolving nature of digital applied sciences, there isn’t any single resolution to addressing the data dysfunction.

Stakeholders have been growing authorized and coverage responses to aim to mitigate the harms prompted by means of social media platforms.

These have remained primarily reactive and, for governments, usually punitive. Kenya isn’t any exception.

By means of the Laptop Misuse and Cybercrimes Act, the Kenyan authorities has criminalised the unfold of false or deceptive data. Hate speech additionally attracts a legal sanction underneath the Nationwide Cohesion and Integration Act.

Within the run as much as the elections, authorities companies have signalled an intent to implement these legal guidelines and crackdown on these discovered to be spreading deceptive content material, hate speech, or participating in cyberbullying.

On its half, the Judiciary has resolved to ascertain specialised courts to expedite the listening to of hate speech circumstances associated to the elections. Civil society alternatively have developed media literacy programmes and fact-checking initiatives.

Whereas all these efforts are nicely intentioned, there are some evident shortcomings.

For one, the shortage of synergistic cooperation between election stakeholders serves to hamper the effectiveness of mitigative interventions.

Extra importantly, using legal sanctions by the federal government to discourage the unfold of problematic content material is incompatible with the character of the data ecosystem on-line.

Enforcement of penal sanctions is more likely to jeopardise the liberty of expression. In additional excessive cases, a punitive perspective may end up in a partial or complete web shutdown as has been witnessed in some international locations inside the area.

Alive to those shortcomings, the Kofi Annan Basis and the Centre for Multiparty Democracy-Kenya convened a multi-stakeholder workshop in November 2021 to evaluate the present scenario and chart a means ahead.

The workshop resulted in a report with suggestions for election stakeholders.

As an alternative of reacting to false or deceptive content material, stakeholders ought to prime audiences to discern falsehoods by exposing them to the methods utilized by unhealthy actors.

The electioneering interval is now upon us, and Kenyans are going to be uncovered to dangerous conduct that will jeopardise wholesome civic engagement and even put lives in danger.

It’s crucial for all election stakeholders to collaborate to safe Kenya’s electoral democracy whereas exploring alternatives for additional motion.

Ms Okolloh is commissioner of the Kofi Annan Fee on Elections and Democracy within the Digital Age. Mr Sugow is a authorized researcher and guide who holds a legislation diploma from Strathmore College.

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