The High Court of Kenya yesterday upheld the Kenya Classification Board’s screening ban on critically acclaimed Kenyan film Rafiki. The ruling delivered by Justice J.A Makau stated that the ban did not contravene Freedom of Expression, Article 33 of the Constitution of Kenya.
The court session conducted via Zoom video conferencing ruled that ‘the ban by the KFCB does not in any way violate Artistic Freedom of Expression, but instead protect the society from moral decay. The judge stated that the petitioners failed to prove how the existence of these sections of the law violated the right of expression.
The creative Economic Working Group (CEWG) as well as Wanuri Kahiu, the Writer/Director and Co-producer of Rafiki, in 2018 filed a lawsuit against the KFCB to challenge the unconstitutionality of the ban against Freedom of Expression and Artistic Freedom guaranteed in the constitution of Kenya.
Wanuri Kahiu the main petitioner said, “In accordance with article 22 (1) of our 2010 constitution, Every person has the right to Institute court proceedings claiming that a right or fundamental freedom in the bill of Rights has been denied, violated or infringed. We proudly exercised that right.”
“For over 50 years retrogressive laws have suppressed bold artistic expression, criminalised art and artists and even seen Kenya lose some of her great minds and talent. outdated laws such as in this case, the Film and Stage Plays Act (Cap 222), have been used to curtail the making, exhibition and licencing of cinematography films and plays in Kenya.”
“These laws not only impede the rights of creatives to exercise their right to freedom of expression, which includes freedom of artistic creativity, they are also inconsistent with the values that we seek to espouse as a nation through our constitution. We will continue to fight against laws that have no place in our democratic Kenyan society” her statement ended.
After the ruling, KFCB boss Dr Ezekiel Mutua took to Twitter to celebrate the ruling by stating, “We won against Kenya Breweries on beer adverts during the watershed period. We won against betting companies and now we’ve won a landmark case against a consortium of gay sympathizers on the gay film (Rafiki) by Wanuri Kahiu. I thank God and all the lecturers who taught me the law!”
The Creative Economic Working Group has vowed to continue to pursue redress through the courts and will be filing an appeal in the Court of Appeal