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Kenya: Digital switchover must ensure protection of FOE

Nairobi 11th Jan 2013

ARTICLE 19 welcomes a ruling by the High Court in Kenya to delay the digital switchover process. The decision follows a legal challenge by a consumer group, which argued against the timing of the switchover. In particular, it argued that the expense of set top boxes, which are required to access digital signals, would leave large numbers of people in Kenya without access to television services. The High Court agreed that if the switchover were to take place immediately, it would be unfair to Kenyans, who are keen to follow the upcoming General Election on television.

ARTICLE 19 now urges the Kenyan government to consider reducing the cost of digital equipment, to allow all Kenyans access to information in a digital world.  The government must also the right based approach to digitalisation in order to ensure full realization of the right to freedom of expression in the process

“This is a positive step to give people the crucial right to be able to access information in Kenya. ARTICLE 19 believes in the promise of digital switchover, but the authorities must make sure that proper measures are in place to safeguard protection of human rights for all. If the analogue broadcasting signal is switched off, Kenya risks pulling the plug on the supply of information to large numbers of people as the country prepares to go to the polls” said Henry Maina, Director ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa.

 

“The government must use this opportunity to make sure that digital communications are not the exclusive preserve of rich Kenyan or those that are based in urban areas.” he added.

The Consumer Federation of Kenya (Cofek) filed a case in December 2012 seeking to block the government’s intention to switch off the analogue signal in Nairobi ahead of the global deadline set by the International Telecommunications Union of June 2015. They claimed that the general public’s right to information would be severely restricted by the expense of buying the set top boxes.

“Digital converter boxes are currently retailing for between US$35 and US$60. That’s a price which will prevent most Kenyan’s from being able to obtain the equipment needed to pick up digital signals. The government must ensure that ensure that all people have access to digital audiovisual services irrespective of their financial position and must provide financial support to certain groups, such as low income households” adds Mr. Maina.

To comply with state international obligations to protect freedom of expression, governments should address the costs implications of digital switchover on the flow of information and the ability of viewers and listeners to receive information.  ARTICLE 19 recommends the government to consider ways of reducing the cost of digital equipment to make sure that all Kenyan’s are in a position to be able to receive digital content. The authorities must work hard to prevent financial discrimination which would create a ‘digital divide’ between those who can afford to buy technology and those who cannot.

Note to editors:

For more media interviews please contact:

Paul Kimumwe, Senior Programme Officer, Freedom of Expression, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa,

Email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or

Call on +254 (20) 3862230/2

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