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Kenyan Goverment launches guidelines on Political Bulk SMS

The Ministry of Information and Communication, through the Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK) in partnership with the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC), the Independent Electoral and Boundaries Commission (IEBC) and the Kenya Police have today launched Guidelines on the Prevention of Undesirable Bulk Political Content Messages.

The launch was held at the Intercontinental Hotel in Nairobi and was graced by the Permanent secretary in the Ministry of Information and Communication – Dr. Bitange Ndemo, Ben Gituku – CCK Board chair and Francis Wangusi, Director General of CCK.

The guidelines come in place as Kenya holds its first General Election since the ill fated 2007 elections that led to post election violence. According to the Kriegler report, inflammatory messages and media broadcasts were used as rabble-rousing tools during the violence.

The new guidelines target Bulk SMS  providers and mobile network operators(MNOs) who are expected to self regulate themselves. Bulk SMS providers will be expected to inform MNOs 48 hours before broadcasting of an SMS. In addition, they are meant to show authorisation of the party on whose behalf they will be sending the messages, including confirming that a party is registered where the message is from a party, or an individual where the message is from an individual.

“The application shall include as a minimum verbatim content of the political message, a signed authorization from the political party or individual sponsoring the political message, and certified copies of registration documentation of the political party or identification documents of the individual,” says Wangusi.

Political messages will only be broadcast in Kiswahili or English, and broadcasts will be limited to between 8:00 am and 6:00 pm. Messages will only be sent to recipients who have opted in and there will be option to opt out of receiving future messages. The guidelines also restrict the use of databases collected for other purposes  for the purpose of political bulk SMS.

In addition, Dr. Ndemo says a National Media Monitoring and Steering Committee and a National Cyber Incident and Response Team(CIRT) have also been established under the Ministry. The Media Monitoring and Steering Committee has been giving weekly reports on the inflammatory in media.

Ndemo says the National CIRT is looking at tackling cyber-crime and will be beefing up on tracking social media usage. The PS warned that many citizens would also find themselves facing arrest due to merely forwarding inflammatory messages. Wangusi says that such messages will be tracked to the source.

The recent switching off of counterfeit handsets and the planned switching off of unregistered SIM cards on December 31st are measures geared towards identifying such perpetrators .
Ndemo said that they would also be working with neighbouring countries including Tanzania and Uganda to seal loopholes where such messages are also sent from operators in those countries.

The guidelines are available here : CCK SMS Regulations

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