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Enhancing freedom of expression and civic participation in public debates

  • Amount funded: £60,000
  • Year: 2023
  • Duration: 24 months
  • Locations: Kenya
  • Grant stream: Open grants call

In Kenya, the Penal Code sets out declarations to protect citizens from criminal defamation; however, recent laws and court decisions are restricting freedom of expression.

Project partners
Mzalendo Trust
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How we are helping

This project aims to strengthen the policy, legal and institutional environment on freedom of expression in Kenya by enhancing awareness among policy-makers and other duty bearers of the effects of restrictions on freedom of expression.

About the project

Despite constitutional guarantees around freedom of expression in Kenya, recent legislation is enabling the use of criminal defamation which restricts the work of journalists. Negative precedents around freedom of expression have been set in the Kenyan court system resulting in the media, human rights activists and civil society organisations facing defamation suits and fines.

Mzalendo Trust will work with the Kenya Correspondents Association and the Association of Media Women in Kenya to organise dialogues for media practitioners, journalists and duty bearers to explore alternative complaints mechanisms and propose legal amendments to restrictive media laws.

This will be achieved by:

  • documenting cases to produce a report that highlights the restrictions on freedom of expression, particularly the impact that gag complaints have on individuals
  • disseminating report findings on social media and national radio and convening face-to-face forums with media and civil society stakeholders in four counties
  • disseminating a recent legal study produced by Mzalendo on the application of Strategic Litigation Against Public Participation (SLAPP) and its effect on freedom of expression within media circles, with the aim of developing a petition to propose amendments to existing laws
  • convening a media stakeholder roundtable with the Parliamentary Committee on Justice & Legal Affairs to share findings and present the petition
  • conducting a forum with the Judicial Training Institute to share a summary of findings from both studies with a view to opening discussion around alternative complaints mechanisms that reserve litigation as a measure of last resort in cases of alleged slander and libel.

As a result of the project, it is hoped that policy-makers will have an increased awareness of the effects of restrictions on freedom of expression; the rights of citizens to participate in public discourses will be enhanced; and freedom of expression will be strengthened in the policy, legal and institutional environment in Kenya.

Project Partners
Mzalendo Trust

Mzalendo Trust is a Kenyan non-partisan parliamentary monitoring organisation that seeks to promote ‘open, inclusive, and accountable parliaments in Kenya and Africa.’ Mzalendo Trust creates and manages civic tech tools, produces evidence-based research, and leads and facilitates advocacy with parliaments, citizens and other relevant stakeholders. They aim to build more effective legislation and inclusive political processes.

Follow their LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/company/mzalendo-trust

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