We’ve decided to borrow from Ezekiel Mutua’s playbook and authoritatively render this judgement: He has crossed a line and should be fired. In addition, if possible under Kenyan law, he should be prosecuted for abuse of office.
Ezekiel Mutua is contemptuously referred to by Kenyans online as “Deputy Jesus” and “moral policeman.” This is because he has made it his business to impose his idea of morality on the rest of Kenyans. First of all, this is a democratic country so Mr Mutua, like other Kenyans, has the right to express his opinion. What he doesn’t have the right to do is use his office as the CEO of the Kenya Film and Classification Board to force his opinions of morality on Kenyans. Even a judge will convict a criminal because he broke the law, not because he doesn’t go to church on Sunday and doesn’t follow what he was taught in Sunday School.
After multiple events involving Ezekiel Mutua’s censorship of music and other entertainment in the country, we were forced to wonder like the twitter user captioned below, “mzee kwanza kazi yako Kenya ni gani?” Mr Mutua’s bio on twitter says that his mission statement as CEO of KFCB is to “protect children from harmful content.” A look at the KFCB website says that they are mandated by the constitution to “impose age restrictions to ensure that content meant for adults is not aired during the watershed period, 5am – 10pm.” They are also mandated to ensure that all content aired on TV and Radio is classified before it is aired.
As a way of protecting children and rating content on TV and Radio, Ezekiel Mutua has killed multiple productions, most notable of which is Eric Omondi’s Wife Material. Eric Omondi was arrested for creating obscene content and publishing it on social media, including YouTube and Instagram. In addition, Mr Mutua has made it his business to criticize and attempt to ban every song that is not made for a church audience.
“Utawezana” by Femi One and Mejja, which went viral all over East Africa, was almost one of Mr Mutua’s casualties. He was quoted saying that the KFCB had initiated measures against the song, including a potential ban on YouTube. The ban was never realized and the song currently has 11 Million+ views. Using the KFCB, he has banned songs such as Diamond’s Tetema from playing in public. Tetema was supposedly banned because of making references to twerking. It didn’t matter that the references were coded. He has also banned films like Rafiki and Wolf of Wall Street. Rafiki, a 2018 internationally acclaimed film, was banned because it told the story of two young women who fell in love and therefore had a “clear intent to promote lesbianism in Kenya.”
From Mr Mutua’s comments, it is clear that he is guided in his job by his personal ideas of morality, which he derives from religion. He confirmed this in an interview with BBC about his job, saying, “I don’t practise my faith under the carpet, I do it openly and it informs my decisions to a large extent.” This is problematic because everyone has their idea of morality and one thing will be right or wrong depending on who you ask. As such, it becomes problematic when one person’s idea of morality becomes law. Mr Mutua is clearly incapable of dispensing his duties objectively. His censorship, if encouraged, will soon be similar to what is experienced in dictatorial regimes.
Criticism of Mr Mutua does not mean that we don’t appreciate the KFCB and why it’s there. It’s important for children to be protected from content that our society considers harmful to them. At the same time, an artist should be able to produce content aimed at adults without being harassed.
This battle has been won on television and radio and the KFCB’s problem is with modern social media. Instead of pulling down a musician’s hard work from YouTube, Mr Mutua should be sensitizing parents on the importance of YouTube kids. He and the board should be ensuring that parents are aware of and are using the wide array of tools available for protecting children on the internet. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the KFCB came up with an IT solution that parents could use to protect children online instead of using their resources to cripple local entertainers who can barely walk?
Kenyan children have access to the internet through their smartphones and if you cannot regulate what they are consuming there, any other regulating you do is just busywork. If that busywork kills the creative industry, as if it doesn’t already have enough challenges against it, then you are an enemy of your country. In a country where unemployment is high, if you are single-handedly responsible for destroying multiple opportunities for employment, is that really something to be proud of?
For the above reasons and with all due respect, Mr Mutua should be fired and someone more competent and resourceful should take his place. His successor should stick to his job description and do everything possible to separate his personal views from work. Mr Mutua’s first mistake was using his personal account to air both official KFCB business and his views. A competent KFCB boss should be able to not only coexist peacefully but also to work hand in hand with the entertainment industry to keep adult content from children. This is unlike the current boss who seems like he receives a separate salary to undermine the creative industry in Kenya. It also seems like he is paid by the national council of churches as opposed to the government of the people of Kenya.
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