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By allowing reporters to record Alcoblow tests on camera, Kenya police breaking the law

Alcoblowo

I had the dubious honour of being pulled over by traffic police manning a road-block on Lang’ata Road last Friday just before midnight. My family and I had attended my niece’s wedding at Maanzoni Lodge and we were headed back home when we encountered the now infamous Alcoblow police-check.
 
Considering the wedding was a party where all manner of beverages, alcohol included, formed part of the menu, it was agreed that I be the designated driver. I therefore stuck to non-alcoholic beverages.
 
Back on Lang’ata road, the officer who pulled us over seemed convinced that all the car’s occupants had indulged and felt it was best that I undergo the test.
 
Fair enough. The policeman was, after all, carrying out his duties as would be expected.
 
However, standing right behind him, camera in hand, was a journalist who was observing the proceedings, waiting for a juicy story. I was perhaps too calm to qualify for a cameo role in his anticipated scoop — yet.
 
So off I went with the polite policeman towards the nerve centre where I would prove my innocence.
 
Now this is where it gets interesting. As the second police officer carefully explained to me the procedure to be followed in this situation, the camera started rolling.
 
I had a choice: go off on a tangent and give the cameraman the tongue lashing of his life. But where would that leave me? Looking as drunk as a sailor.
 
The second option was to maintain my cool, listen to the officer telling me to “blow until I tell you to stop”, and peacefully drive the clan home.
 
I chose the latter and I happily scored 0.00 per cent alcohol content to the amazement of both the officer and the journalist. He actually held up the results for the cameraman to record.
 
NO CONSENT TO FILM
 
I have recounted these events with the sole purpose of exposing a serious breach of the law.
 
While I applaud the NTSA, the police and Cabinet Secretary Michael Kamau’s efforts to rid our roads of drunk drivers, I am peeved by their enthusiasm for recording would-be offenders and offenders alike on tape.
 
The Constitution confers on me and every other Kenyan the right to privacy. If in doubt, see Chapter 4 starting with Article 31: “Every person has the right to privacy which includes the right which includes the right not to have — (a) their person, home or property searched… (c) information relating to their family or private affairs unnecessarily required or revealed…
 
Rights belong to an individual and are not granted by the State, which, however, is duty-bound to ensure these rights are not abused.
 
According to Article 21 (1) it is the fundamental duty of the State and every State organ to observe, respect, protect, promote and fulfil the rights and fundamental freedoms in the Bill of Rights.
 
At no time did the offending journalist ask for my consent to film me, nor did the policemen protect my rights by informing me of the camera’s presence.
 
NTSA officials, whose vehicles were parked by the roadside, did nothing either to ensure that my rights were respected.
 
State agencies are required by law to ensure their actions do not go beyond the ambit of the law, and the Bill of Rights is at the heart of all laws.
 
Fundamental rights are, by their very nature, inalienable. They are synonymous with human rights, and the world over, they transcend jurisdictions.
 
To understand just how crucial the Bill of Rights is, one has to go back to the preamble of our supreme law. “We the people” gave life to the Constitution and we gave each and everyone of us these fundamental rights.
 
So, before State agencies invite the media to cover how well their policies are working, they should be duly warned that they are infringing on the rights of individuals and these individuals can seek protection of those rights in a court of law.
 
Our appetite for reality TV is at best nauseating and the State authorities are pandering to this craving.
 
Ms Mbeneka is an advocate of the High Court practising in Nairobi. (mbeneka@gmail.com)

-Nation

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