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Postal workers to open your letters

Thursday December 11 2008

Opposition activist Raila Odinga is ordered

Opposition activist Raila Odinga is ordered into a police car on his arrest in Nairobi after a peaceful protest march turned violent in the Nyayo era. The Bill threatens to take the country to the repressive Kanu days. Photo/FILE 

By SAMUEL SIRINGI

The new communications law gives postal staff powers to open your letters.

People whose letters would be considered offensive or to contain obscene pictures will be liable to a Sh100,000 fine and two years imprisonment or both.

People will also not be allowed to use words such as “letter box” anywhere in their private buildings as that would imply such places are legitimate post offices.

People who defy the section will be liable to a fine of up to Sh5,000.

According to the Bill, “any person who affixes any placard, advertisement, notice, document or in any way disfigures any post office will be liable to payment of Sh50,000 or one year imprisonment or both”.

The law will also restrict you from transmitting certain messages through your mobile phone and other electronic gadgets.

The source of the messages will always be traced to senders.

Such transfer of messages was what helped police to arrest individuals who were distributing hate material that was critical of then ODM presidential candidate Raila Odinga in the North Rift at the height of last year’s General Election campaigns.

Their text messages will, too, be easily traceable, whenever they are considered obscene or offensive. It means Government officials would now have the right to access contents of your mail.

According to the law, the 12 million-plus mobile phone users will also be barred from interfering with the programming or facial features of their phones.

These are some of the raft of measures targeting the public, which are likely to intensify criticism of the Kenya Communications (Amendment) Bill 2008. Already, it has received heavy opposition from the media industry, which argues the Bill would give the Government powers to raid media houses and disable broadcasting equipment.

It means customers would now not be able to change the faces of the phones or even install some fancy ring tones as has been the case before, if the Bill becomes law.

Doing so will be regarded an offence, which would attract fines of up to Sh300,000 and imprisonment of three years.

Proposed law

The Bill would deny the public the right to know what their leaders would be doing away from their offices since the proposed law states sternly that there be “respect to the privacy of individual”.

The vague description of “privacy” could easily be misused by Government to bar media from reporting on the stolen property hidden private residences of leaders.

In what looks like a move to deny the public controversial news or those critical to authority, the Bill states that efforts must be made to give alternative views, regardless of the importance of the stories.

It states that derogative remarks based on ethnicity, race, creed, colour and sex are not broadcast, meaning most newspaper readers, TV watchers and radio listeners will receive heavily censored content.

According to the Bill, one would face a fine of Sh200,000 or imprisonment for two years or both if they use a computer system to perform a function that is unauthorised.

The bill makes it an offence to share (computer) passwords, access code(s) or any other means of gaining access to any programme or data. Culprits will get Sh200,000 fine, two years in jail or both.

The law creates new offences with respect to electronic records and transactions including cyber crime, destruction of electronic records and reprogramming of mobile phones.