More than 60 bloggers have been arrested this year, a report by the Bloggers Association of Kenya (BAKE) says.
BAKE chairman Kennedy Kachwanya, launching the report Wednesday, said police and senior government officials are constantly looking for ways of legally intimidating bloggers and Kenyans online.
The arrest of bloggers and journalists over remarks made on social media or blogs was seen as a way of muzzling their freedom of expression online and usually those arrested were slapped with dubious charges or locked up in police cells during weekends.
Mr Kachwanya said even as the popularity of social media has shaped opinion and driven events — such as the closure of Chase Bank, which was blamed largely on social media — there are calls to regulate it.
He claimed the acquisition of spy software called FinFisher by the National Intelligence Service and its utility to monitor and possibly bring down web platforms is alarming.
FinFisher is a sophisticated computer spyware suite sold exclusively for government intelligence gathering and law enforcement purposes.
But government have used the software to monitor and spy on firms, journalists, activists and opposition political leaders.
Mr Kachwanya cited the shutting down of the Internet in neighbouring Uganda during their last general elections and suggested that a similar blackout could be imposed in Kenya in 2017.
“The possibility to either shut down the Internet during the 2017 General Election in whole or in part remains a glaring possibility,” he said.
BLOG READERSHIP UP
The report, State of the Internet in Kenya 2016, shows that the number of people reading blogs has risen in the country.
It indicated that monthly blog readership increased by 46 per cent from 12.4 million to 18.1 million.
Blogs in the lifestyle category saw the highest increase in readership at 69 per cent, followed by business blogs at 46 per cent and creative writing at 36 per cent.
However, the readership of political and entertainment blogs dropped to 47 per cent and 37 per cent respectively, with the report attributing the downward trend to Kenyans getting serious about the content they read online.
It was also noted that the reason for the drop in readership in the entertainment category could be that traffic is being directed elsewhere, especially to Facebook and YouTube.
“We have also noted an increase in intellectual property rights cases online where online content creators have seen their content used without their consent,” he added.