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January 21, 2019

Mutua exploits bad for creative industry

Andrea Bohnstedt
Andrea Bohnstedt

I don’t think people will ever agree on a country’s development strategy. That is unsurprising –development is a hugely complex issue and it is never easy to figure out what works when and under which circumstances. There is an ongoing discussion whether spending several billions of US dollars on a second railway was sensible (although single-sourcing, a venture of such a magnitude, is highly questionable). On an ICT email list, the discussion came up – yet again – whether it made sense for Kenya to start investing in computer manufacturing. Some argue that yes, it was important that Kenya diversified, and didn’t limit itself to agriculture and tourism. Others argued that this ship had truly sailed, and Kenya should focus on agriculture, agro-processing and tourism – areas where it has natural resources and already employ a large number of people. And then there are creative industries. Hard to tell how big they could be, but certainly worth a try, no? The good people at The Nest, for example, have not only created some interesting and thought-provoking art themselves, but also run a fund to build capacity across creative industries. So this could all be quite promising – if it were not for Kenya Film Classification Board CEO Ezekiel Mutua. Some of his exploits – including blocking anyone who criticises him on his Facebook page – would be faintly amusing if they didn’t have a detrimental real-life effect.

Among his latest endeavors was the attempted censorship of what he described as the ‘first lesbian TV show hosted by two popular lesbian celebrities’ that he would, of course, have to investigate. I am not sure how much he really investigated, as he then published a letter from the show’s producer Tilo Ponder, editor-in-chief of the What’s Good Network. Except, Ponder says, the alleged illegal podcast wasn’t about lesbians, alleged or otherwise, and the show was suspended anyway (not allegedly, but actually). I am confused about this on several levels: How does, as he claims, the constitutional definition of ‘marriage as a union between two people of the opposite sex’ outlaw lesbianism? Irrespective of the legality (alleged or otherwise) of lesbianism, I think we also find murder, theft and other crimes depicted in entertainment. Why don’t we shut gangster movies down? How did a podcast become the KFCB’s responsibility? How is the presenters’ sexual orientation anyone’s concern? Is he at all aware of the wealth of content that can be found on the Internet? Do his employers think this is really the way to develop all the potential in Kenya’s creative industries? Do I need to get my love life vetted before writing columns?


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