KENYA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net villages—small public access sites similar to cybercafes.11 The facilities are estimated to have increased rural usage from 4 percent to 9 percent between 2007 and 2009.There have been no reports of the government using control over internet infrastructure to limit connectivity. Kenyans have unrestricted access to the socialnetworking site Facebook, the YouTube video-sharing site, and the blog-hosting site Blogger, all of which rank among the 10 most popular sites in the country.Reform of Kenya’s information and communications sector in 2008 led to a new licensing framework—part of a regulatory strategy that has seen a shift from licensing based on a bidding process to open, market-based licensing.14 Competition has been introduced in most segments of the telecommunications market, though Safaricom currently dominates mobile-phone services, holding nearly 80 percent of the market.15 In May 2010, the CCK published the Kenya Information and Communications (Fair Competition and Equality of Treatment) Regulations of 2010, whose objective was to reduce the gap between Safaricom and its competitors. However, in June 2010 the CCK reportedly withdrew the regulations following strident complaints from Safaricom.16 In addition, the third-generation (3G) mobile service licensing model remains controversial, as only one of the four mobile operators, Safaricom, was able to hold a 3G license until recently. Later in June 2010, the CCK announced that it would be lowering the upfront fees for a 3G license. Safaricom protested, arguing that since it had paid the full KSh 1.9 billion (US$23.4 million) for its license, it should receive compensation from the government if other providers are allowed to pay less.17 Nevertheless, Zain that month became the second Kenyan operator to receive a 3G license.18 Another company, Telkom (Orange), obtained a license in November to launch its own 3G service in the first part of 2011.Under the Communications Amendment Act, passed in January 2009, the CCK rather than the independent and professional Media Council of Kenya is responsible for “Kenya Investing Ksh 16.3 Billion in Rural ICT,” Information Policy (blog), July 30, 2009, http://www.ipolicy.org/2009/07/kenya-investing-ksh163-billion-in-rural-ict.html.
Russell Southwood, “Internet Is Creeping Up on Television for Key 18–24 Demographic, Says New National Survey,” Balancing Act, February 4, 2010, available at http://allafrica.com/stories/201002050912.html.
Alexa, “Top Sites in Kenya,” http://www.alexa.com/topsites/countries/KE, accessed August 23, 2010.
Macharia Kamau, “Safaricom Raises Concerns Over Competition Rules,” Standard, May 3, 2010, http://www.standardmedia.co.ke/InsidePage.phpid=2000008960&cid=14.
Kui Kinyanjui and Mark Okuttah, “Firm Picked to Guide Telcos Regulation,” Business Daily, June 8 2010, http://www.businessdailyafrica.com/Company%20Industry/Firm%20picked%20to%20guide%20telcos%20regulation//539550/933998/-/60qhtd/-/index.html.
Evelyne Njoroge, “Zain Kenya Happy with Move on 3G Licenses,” Capital Business, June 18, 2010, http://www.capitalfm.co.ke/business/Kenyabusiness/Zain-Kenya-happy-with-move-on-3G-licenses-4320.html.
Michael Karanja, “Another Kenyan Firm Gets 3G License,” Capital Business, June 25, 2010, http://www.capitalfm.co.ke/business/Kenyabusiness/Another-Kenyan-firm-gets-3G-license-4348.html.
Duncan Miriri, “Telkom Kenya Gets Shareholder Loan for 3G License,” Reuters, June 23, 2010, http://af.reuters.com/article/investingNews/idAFJOE65M0EU20100623. George Mwangi, “Telkom Kenya Gets 3G License,” Wall Street Journal, November 24, 2010, http://online.wsj.com/article/BT-CO-20101124-707873.html.
KENYA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net regulating both traditional and online media. The formal independence of the CCK is enshrined in the 1998 Kenya Communications Act, and in 2005 several independent commissioners, including a civil society representative, joined the CCK board. However, most of the commissioners remain government appointees, and their independence is somewhat limited in practice.20 The CCK’s recent withdrawal of the proposed fair competition regulations has reinforced the perception that the commission is subject to the undue influence of powerful companies like Safaricom.21 As the CCK has yet to make any decisions affecting the internet, its autonomy and professionalism in making determinations on the topic remain to be seen. Access providers have formed organizations such as the Kenyan ISP Association, the Telecommunications Service Providers of Kenya, and the Kenya Cybercafe Owners to lobby the government for better regulations, lower costs, and increased efforts to improve computer literacy.
LIMITS ON CONTENT The government does not employ technical filtering or any administrative censorship system to restrict access to political or other content. Citizens are able to access a wide range of viewpoints, with the websites of the British Broadcasting Corporation (BBC), the U.S.based Cable News Network (CNN), and Kenya’s Daily Nation newspaper being the most commonly accessed online news outlets.22 Despite concerns over the use of the internet to propagate hate speech during postelection violence in late 2007 and early 2008, and fears that the authorities might use this to justify imposing greater controls on online content, no such restrictions have been introduced. Individual internet users generally seem comfortable expressing themselves freely online, though mainstream media organizations practice some self-censorship.
The internet has emerged as an increasingly important forum for political debate, particularly during the run-up to an August 2010 referendum in which voters approved a new constitution. Political and civic organizations used the internet to distribute educational material such as pamphlets, videos, and statements about their positions on the draft constitution, as well as to publicize rallies related to the referendum. However, as in the run-up to the 2007 elections, there were also concerns that the internet was being used by nonstate actors for detrimental purposes. Some of those opposed to the draft constitution, for instance, spread misinformation about controversial aspects of the document, such as claims that it would legalize abortion. (In fact it contained a clause similar to one in the Rebecca Wanjiku, “Kenya Communications Amendment Act 2009: Progressive or Retrogressive” Association for Progressive Communications, September 2009, http://www.apc.org/en/system/files/CICEWAKenya20090908_EN.pdf.
Jevans Nyabiage, “Kenya: Storm Brews Over New CCK Telecoms Rules,” Daily Nation, May 3, 2010, available at http://allafrica.com/stories/201005031247.html.
Juma, “Mobile Internet on Course to Becoming Top Earner for Firms.” KENYA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net current penal code that allows a doctor to conduct an abortion when the mother’s life is in danger.) Aside from the constitutional referendum, the blogging community in recent years has mostly focused on apolitical topics such as the booming technology sector in Nairobi.
Meanwhile, print outlets, television, and radio continue to be the main sources of news and information for most Kenyans, though there are increasing efforts to extend mainstream news to online platforms. All major television stations use YouTube to rebroadcast news clips and also have accounts on Facebook and the Twitter microblogging site.
VIOLATIONS OF USER RIGHTS The constitution protects freedom of expression and the “freedom to communicate ideas and information.” However, it also grants the government the authority to punish defamation, protect privileged information, and restrict state employees’ freedom of expression “in the interest of defense, public safety, public order, public morality or public health.” Criminal defamation laws remain on the books, but there do not appear to have been any cases aimed at online commentators. In January 2009, the president approved the controversial Communications Amendment Act despite significant opposition from local media workers and international press freedom watchdogs. The act established that any person who publishes, transmits, or causes to be published in electronic form obscene information commits an offense. It also outlines other forms of illegality associated with the use of information and communication technologies (ICTs).23 The prescribed punishments include up to KSh 200,000 (US$2,460) in fines and two years’ imprisonment. In July 2009, an amendment to the legislation repealed provisions that had restricted broadcast media.
The law’s effects on online communications remain unclear,24 and as of the end of 2010, the measure had not been used to prosecute anyone for online expression.
Surveillance of internet and mobile phones is not a serious concern in Kenya. In June 2010, the CCK announced a requirement for all mobile-phone subscribers to register their SIM cards with their service providers. By September, approximately 60 percent of users had registered and the authorities extended the deadline to allow the remainder time to do so before having their lines disconnected.25 There have been no reported cases of bloggers or other activists having their communications monitored. There were no reports of extralegal intimidation of journalists, bloggers, or other ICT users by state authorities or any other actor in 2009–10.
Republic of Kenya Office of Public Communications, “The Kenya Communications (Amendment) Act 2009,” http://www.communication.go.ke/Documents/media.pdf, accessed February 15, 2011.
International Freedom of Expression eXchange (IFEX), “Triumph for Journalists as Government Agrees to Amend Media Law,” news release, May 20, 2009, http://www.ifex.org/kenya/2009/05/20/govt_to_amend_law/.
CCK, “It’s now mandatory to register your SIM card,” June 21, 2010, http://www.cck.go.ke/news/2010/news_21june2010.html; Simon Davies, “Kenya Extends SIM Card Registration Deadline,” Cellular News, September 22, 2010, http://www.cellular-news.com/story/45530.php.
KENYA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net MALAYSIA 2009 POPULATION: 28.9 million INTERNET FREEDOM Partly Partly INTERNET PENETRATION: 56 percent STATUS Free Free WEB 2.0 APPLICATIONS BLOCKED: No Obstacles to Access 9 SUBSTANTIAL POLITICAL CENSORSHIP: No Limits on Content 12 BLOGGERS/ONLINE USERS ARRESTED: Yes Violations of User Rights 20 PRESS FREEDOM STATUS: Not Free Total 41 INTRODUCTION The Malaysian government has actively encouraged access to the internet and mobile phones, and the use of such media has risen rapidly since the first internet-service provider (ISP) was inaugurated in 1992. By the end of 2009, more than half of the population accessed the internet and the figure continues to grow.1 In the watershed general elections of March 2008, the ruling National Front (BN) coalition lost its two-thirds parliamentary majority for the first time since 1969. In addition, opposition parties won control of five of the 13 states, including those with relatively high internet penetration rates, such as Penang and Selangor. Together with the growing popularity and importance of independent online news outlets, the use of the internet for political mobilization was widely perceived as contributing to the opposition’s electoral gains.In both the run-up to and aftermath of the elections, many observers sensed that the government and ruling coalition had recognized the potential political impact of the internet and had therefore grown more determined to control it. In recent years there has been a series of incidents in which bloggers have been harassed or charged under vaguely worded security laws. The government has also made a more concerted effort to influence public opinion by establishing its own presence online, while several online news outlets and opposition-related websites have faced cyberattacks. However, more systemic forms of International Telecommunications Union (ITU), “ICT Statistics 2009—Internet,” http://www.itu.int/ITUD/icteye/Reporting/ShowReportFrame.aspxReportName=/WTI/InformationTechnologyPublic&ReportFormat=HTML4.0& RP_intYear=2009&RP_intLanguageID=1&RP_bitLiveData=False.
“Malaysia’s Uneasy Dance with the Web,” Asia Sentinel, August 17, 2010, http://asiasentinel.com/index.phpoption=com_content&task=view&id=2645&Itemid=178.
MALAYSIA FREEDOM HOUSE Freedom on the Net censorship, such as technical filtering, have not been implemented. Meanwhile, a growing number of Malaysians have begun to blog or to communicate via advanced web applications such as the Facebook social-networking site, the Twitter microblogging service, and the video-sharing site YouTube.
OBSTACLES TO ACCESS Internet penetration has grown dramatically over the past decade, from 3.7 million users in 2000 to as much as 16.1 million in 2010, according to estimates by the Economist Intelligence Unit.3 Moreover, according to the Nielson Media Index, almost 4 in 10 users spent one to two hours on the internet every day in 2008.4 Malaysians can access the internet through home connections, mobile phones, or cybercafes. Cybercafes play an important role in bridging the urban-rural connectivity gap. Nevertheless, there remains an acute digital divide in the country, with more than 80 percent of internet users living in urban areas,5 and significantly lower penetration rates in the more sparsely populated states of East Malaysia, where most residents belong to indigenous groups.