The Kenya Film Policy: Crafting Kenya's Future Film Industry

In October of 2016, the Kenya Film Classification Board proposed a draft bill to regulate film and media content for the country. While the current law covering that mandate - CAP 222 (The Film and Stage Plays Act) - is a colonial holdover in urgent need of updating, the proposed bill (dubbed the Kenya Film, Stage Plays and Publications Bill) was quite problematic.

The contentious bill sought to expand the reach of the Film Classification Board to determine the suitability of other forms of media, including books, gaming, over-the-top services, billboards, entering into the functions Internet Service Providers and advertising content other than audiovisual, while also increasing the variety of content genres that could be deemed offensive. Along with this, the bill proposed to complicate the business of making film and content: increasing the number of licenses and costs requirements to produce; introduced new and higher penalties for enforcing these new requirements; appropriating the power to arrest, and attempting to insulate the board from review and prosecution.

HEVA, along with other film and art sector stakeholders, attended a public meeting called by the board on 12th October 2016 to engage the sector on the draft bill. From the plenary submissions of creative sector associations and practitioners, there was unanimity on the potential harmful effects of the bill: a clear breach of constitutional guarantees to freedoms of expression and association, as well as constraints on freedom of the media and the right to privacy. The draft bill was seen to criminalize filmmaking, increase the costs of doing business and introduce new bureaucratic hurdles and constraints.

This strong sector response, later referred to as ‘The Gachara Declaration’, opened public discussion on the proposals and created an opportunity for stakeholders’ engagement with the process. As a result, on the 18th of December 2016, the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Arts and the Executive Office of the President convened a meeting of creative sector umbrella organizations and associations, and subsequently oversaw the formation of a sectoral team to engage with the state to resolve the issues raised around the proposed bill. Our Managing Partner George Gachara was appointed the committee’s chairperson.

This 9-member committee consisted of George Gachara, Dr. Zipporah Okoth, Angela Wachuka, Mwaniki Mageria, Martin Munyua, Jim Shamoon, Dennis Deus, Wambui Kairo and Kingwa Kamencu. They made written and oral submissions on the sector’s position regarding the process and the content of the proposed bill. The team was also requested by the Department of State for Culture and the Arts to finalize the development of the national film policy - a process that was started a decade back and had since stalled severally.

For the next five months, this committee extensively reviewed local and international legislative and policy documents, engaged in legal research and analysis, and conducted wide sector consultation. As a result, the committee suggested in-depth recommendations on the creation of an enabling business environment, including education, training and skills transfer, legal and institutional reforms, film finance and incentives frameworks, research and archiving, as well as in developing a County Film Policy Framework.

The committee submitted its report and the finalized film draft policy (2017) to the Ministry of Sports, Culture and Art on the 9th of June 2017, and its recommendations are currently under consideration.

We were happy to facilitate the gradual coming together of creative sector stakeholders, the Film Classification Board and the State, in order to open new lines of communication, build consensus on critical issues of the film industry. and develop a collaborative and sustainable environment for the growth of the creative sector.