KFCB agrees to scrap controversial film bill & start the process afresh

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Kenyan creatives from different sectors attended in large numbers, the stakeholders forum that was called by the Kenya Film & Classification Board (KFCB) to discuss the proposed Films, Stage Plays and Publications Bill 2016.

The forum was coming on the back of heated discussions of the bill online and offline. The bill sought to regulate filmmakers, several other creative sectors, ISPs among others deviating from the board’s role of rating films. There was also a lot of mobilization both online and offline to get as many creatives as possible to attend the forum, and it worked judging from the great attendance.

The forum was meant to be a Government style one day affair but George Gachara, Director at The Nest Collective and Managing Partner at Heva Fund, asked the organizers to do away with some sections so we could get right to public participation. The sections in question would have involved KFCB staff taking attendees through the bill for about 5 hours. Gachara rightly argued that everyone had read the bill and all most were interested in was to register their feedback on it. This was agreed upon by the attendees.

The KFCB CEO Ezekiel Mutua kick-started the forum with a background of the bill. Apparently, it came about from the spirit of changing the current law Cap 222 in order to lower costs of rating film content which stands at Ksh. 100 after a petition from Kenyan film producers. There were also other sections of the law that are now outdated that KFCB sought to change. Mutua claimed that they involved film associations in the making of the bill. However, Wambui Kairo, who represents a film association, registered her objection with this saying that she did not take part in coming up with the bill as it was presented.

Charles Ouma, lawyer from the Kenya School of Law was contracted by KFCB to shepherd the process and he shared how they came up with the draft bill and that they involved internal stakeholders within KFCB. George Gachara was the first to submit and he posited that the bill was not produced as a result of a policy framework and so it is wrong ab initio. He added that the bill was flawed because it will create new costs for filmmakers, complicate business practices, raise fines, regulate the creation of art, safeguard KFCB from prosecution and also police what content Kenyan adults can consume. He put forward that the bill be shredded and that KFCB starts from scratch with more stakeholder participation which most of the attendees agreed with. The Gachara declaration, as his position was called, was echoed by most speakers who stood up.

Kenya Film Commission (KFC) CEO Lizzie Chongoti stood up to speak and agreed that it is important for laws to be hinged on a policy framework. She went on to reveal that there was a policy document that KFC is working on and that will be published as soon as it is approved. The policy document would then form the basis of any laws that will be enacted concerning the film industry.

Amid a lot of heckling, because the organizers were resisting calls for trashing the bill, Ezekiel Mutua finally stood up and agreed to set aside the bill as is and go back to square one. He agreed to do more stakeholder engagement in drafting the new bill.

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