Musicians deny hate speech charges in court
NAIROBI, Kenya, Jul 4 – Three musicians accused of propagating hate speech through their songs have been charged in a Nairobi court.
Kamande wa Kioi, Muigai Wa Njoroge and John DeMathew denied the hate speech and incitement to violence charges on Wednesday and were each released on a cash bail of Sh100,000.
The three musicians have been under investigations by the National Cohesion and Integration Commission (NCIC) that recommended their prosecution.
They were accused of producing and publishing songs in Kikuyu language with words that were intended to cause violence.
“You are accused of producing and publishing a song in Kikuyu language on or before April 2010 with words that were intended to cause hatred, hostility and discrimination between members of Kikuyu and Luo communities,” one of the charges against Wa Njoroge read.
If found guilty, the musicians may be imprisoned for a term not exceeding three years or fined Sh1 million or both, according to the National Cohesion and Integration Act.
Their lawyers have informed the court that they will challenge the constitutionality of the charges in the High Court.
The commission has contacted the Media Council of Kenya in a bid to get a log of all media houses which have been playing the songs.
A radio station that plays the music would be liable to a fine not exceeding Sh1 million, according to the Act.
Section 62 of the Cohesion Act criminalises the dissemination of hate speech. “A person who distributes, shows or plays a recording of visual image or provides, produces or directs a programme which involves use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour commits an offence if such person intends thereby to stir up ethnic hatred or having regard to all the circumstances, ethnic hatred is likely to be stirred up,” the Act states in part.
But the lawyers accused NCIC of criminalizing and giving inciteful interpretation to the songs.
“The charges are a gross abuse of court process and an attempt by one side of the political debate to resolve the issue about the truth of the Hague process,” lawyer Gichuki Kingara said.
“Accused would be contending that NCIC was making a criminal interpretation to artistic works by the artistes and they (artistes) are entitled to hold their opinion.”
On Tuesday, their colleagues from Central Kenya and the Kikuyu Council of Elders defended them over the allegations.
The musicians claimed that their freedom of creativity is being infringed upon while the elders accused the commission of bias adding that they have lost confidence in the NCIC chairman Mzalendo Kibunjia.
The NCIC flagged the songs, ‘Mwaka wa Hiti’ (year of the hyena) by DeMathew, Muigai wa Njoroge’s ‘Hague bound’ and ‘Uhuru ni Witu’ by Kamande wa Kioi after public complaints.