Kenya: Film board bans “obscene” music and “offensive” musician names

Kenya’s Film Classification Board (KFCB) and its head, Ezekiel Mutua, announced on 19 November 2016 that they have issued a ban on local musicians using stage names they consider to be “offensive”, as well as the sale of music that contains “obscene” lyrics or glorifies drug abuse and violence.

Mutua announced the news on his Facebook page, stating:

Musicians and comedians do not have to use obscene or vulgar language to be popular. The idea that ‘oversexualising’ content makes it cool is a lie. Music is a powerful tool for building values and must be used for such – to promote, not undermine values. Use of obscene stage names and music titles is BANNED (sic) in line with the Film and Stage Plays Act Cap 222 of the Laws of Kenya.

The ban comes after the KFCB released the results of a survey they commissioned to investigate public complaints concerning “a section of musicians” using such names and producing such music.

The complaints came from parents, religious leaders, teachers and elected leaders who have raised “alarm” over music that “promotes retrogressive behaviour among children and youth who look at the performers as their role models”.

Further, the report stated that the research has “established that a large percentage of children and youth have been addicted” to the content in question, which has contributed to the “general decline of moral values among the youth”.

Harsh punishments
The report stated musicians would be served with 14-day notices to “cease using obscene language and offensive stage names, and recall all the content from distribution, broadcasting and exhibition”, which extends to all public broadcast stations and places, including bars, restaurants and public transportation.

Further, if any musician fails to comply with the notice within the allotted time, they would face legal action, including a fine of no less than 200,000 Kenyan Shillings (approx. $1,940 USD), a five-year prison sentence, or both.

The report adds that the KFCB “will not approve the creation, distribution, broadcast or exhibition, of content that objectifies women, promotes obscenity, pornography, homosexuality, violence, drug abuse, or incitement to war”.

According to the KFCB’s statement on their Facebook page, a comprehensive report covering 30 counties within the country will be released in February 2017. Mutua said in a Facebook statement on 22 November 2016 that as a result of the survey, more musician names, lyrics and titles will be released that are in breach of the law.

Overextending its reach
Artists, including one of the musicians already listed publicly, Alex Kasau Katombi, have accused Mutua and the KFCB of overstepping their mandate, having no proper legal guidance for them to institute such a ban and killing creativity in Kenya, reported citizen journalist news portal HiviSasa on 23 November 2016.

This latest ban announcement comes just after the KFCB came under fire for unveiling its new draft Films, Stage Plays and Publications Act which would not only extend the board’s responsibilities to regulating all parts of the creative process, but would also extend the board’s scope to cover other forms of media, over and above film.

Response to the draft act has elicited some of the same response to the ban, with critics saying it would kill creativity and choke the nation’s nascent film industry.

Photo: Ezekiel Mutua Facebook profile


» HiviSasa – 23 November 2016:
Artistes accuse Ezekiel Mutua of overstepping mandate

» HiviSasa – 23 November 2016:
I will send you to jail – Mutua tells immoral Kamba musicians

» Facebook – 22 November 2016:
Ezekiel Mutua Facebook page statement

» HiviSasa – 21 November 2016:
Here are musicians banned by Ezekiel Mutua over ’obscene stage names’

» Standard Digital – 21 November 2016:
Ezekiel Mutua offended by artistes going with names such as ‘Wakatimba’

» Facebook – 20 November 2016:
Kenya Film Classification Board Facebook page statement

» Standard Digital – 19 November 2016:
Ezekiel Mutua issues seven-day notice to musicians using obscene stage names to change or face legal action

» Facebook – 19 November 2016:
Ezekiel Mutua Facebook page statement

More from Freemuse

» 31 October 2016: Kenya: Draft law on film and theatre censorship broad and severe

» 7 March 2016: Kenya: LGBT music video banned

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