One of the central objectives of any society is to protect its children and allow them to enjoy their childhood without premature exposure to adult experiences, and without their having to experience damaging, harmful, and inappropriate behavior, whether directly or indirectly. The Constitution Article 53, the Children Act Section 15,the United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child Article 17 and the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, enjoin us to protect the child from neglect and exposure to obscene material.
The United Nations Convention on the Rights of the Child explicitly lists protection of the children as one of the important and solemn objectives that must be protected by the State. Article 17 states that “State parties recognize the important function performed by mass media and shall ensure that the child has access to information and material from a diversity of national and international sources, especially those aimed at the promotion of his or her social, spiritual and moral well-being and physical and mental health. To this end, State Parties shall:
a) Encourage the mass media to disseminate information and material of social and cultural benefit to the child;
b) Encourage the development of appropriate guidelines for the protection of the child from information and material injurious to his or her well-being, bearing in mind the provisions of Articles 13 and 18.
Article 13, supports the rights of the children to seek and receive information and ideas of all kinds, subject to restrictions to protect public health. Article 18, supports parents in their primary responsibility for the upbringing and development of their children, but requires that institutions support parents in this role.
P.S. The aforementioned international treaties form part of Kenyan law courtesy of Article 2(6) of our Constitution.
I believe as Kenyans and as an international community, we have all borne witness of how powerful media is in any society. If it were not so, we would not be having a journalist being tried at the Hague.
It is universally recognized that children are consumers of the media and being impressionable and vulnerable, the media can potentially cause them harm. Commercial incentives create pressure on broadcasters to disseminate material that may be challenging for children and the State needs to take measures to counteract this tendency.
While protecting children and morality are both legitimate grounds for regulating the freedom of expression enshrined in Article 33 of our Constitution, this cannot prevent the publication of information in the public interest. It is for this reason that a watershed provision is the best way to solve this conundrum.
What this means in practice is that ‘adult material’ is not aired when children are likely to be watching or listening. That is, ‘adult’ programmes are aired at certain hours during the night. e.g. in Canada and UK, the watershed starts at 2100hours.
The intention of a watershed is that parents (and society as a whole) can generally be satisfied that children will not be consuming inappropriate or potentially harmful material if they are watching television or listening to the radio before the watershed. Past the watershed, responsibility passes from the broadcaster to parents/guardians. Parents who allow their children to be entertained by television or radio late into the night know that their children might come across material which is unsuitable for them. Responsibility will thus move from the State to the parent when the watershed period begins; broadcasters will not be appropriate babysitting service.
Fellow Kenyans, in our country, we have a watershed provision contained in the CCK Broadcasting Code. However, the Code has not been enforced (read gazetted). Perhaps listening to the kind of talks the media airs at peak hours of the day (attached below find samples) will convince you that we are in dire need of the enforcement of the watershed provision.
We are committed to bringing it to the government to make such provisions enacted. You can help by signing the petition and please remember to like our Community Okoa Mtoto page to follow the progress of this petition.