September 23, 2017
October 5, 2017
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For the second week running, former radio journalist Caroline Mutoko has run a commentary featuring the Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) as the main subject of discussion. The latest of this unjustifiable and random vilification is a YouTube clip titled “Film, Kenya and Tourism”.

In the footage, Ms. Mutoko claims for the second time that some public officers in the film industry solicit bribes to provide film regulatory services. According to her, this is the reason why some filmmakers are opting to make Kenyan films in other countries. Nothing can be further from the truth. This is an unwarranted and generalized attack on innocent film licensing officers.

Alluding to my response to another misleading video posted earlier on her channel, the journalist-cum-blogger suggests that the consistency between my responder and a clarification by Department of the Arts and Culture Principal Secretary Mr. Joe Robert Okudo amounts to plagiarism.

Again, this is a very unacceptable and disrespectful jibe on the good PS, who has done so much to develop the sector since his appointment one and a half years ago. True to his character, the PS promptly wrote a comprehensive clarification to Ms. Mutoko, which she ignored and chose to continue making wild claims that it was a “cut and paste” job!

It is instructive to note that the Ministry has developed a film policy through an extensive stakeholders’ consultations process. The policy is now before Cabinet, and most of the issues raised by Caroline are embedded in the policy framework. We hope the issues will be addressed conclusively by the policy.

But before I delve into the gist of the uninformed claims, let me thank Ms. Mutoko for her newly- acquired interest in the film industry. As a regulator, we encourage such progressive conversations on film related issues from both stakeholders in the film industry and any other well-meaning parties. We are not averse to opinions that seek solutions for a better performance of the creative economy. But ignorant ranting on matters of policy does more harm than good, and cannot build the sector.

Objective observations should be based on research and facts. I find the allegations by Ms. Mutoko glaringly misleading and grossly lacking in accuracy. This is unfortunate for a journalist of her stature. As a seasoned media personality, Ms. Mutoko should be predisposed to understand that important issues such as Kenya’s vibrant film industry must be discussed from a point of information as opposed to malicious propaganda. In any case, the principal role of journalists is to inform, educate and entertain within certain ethical parameters.

I have painstakingly listened to Ms. Mutoko’s comments and I wish to respond as follows:

1. It is absurd to make allegations that have no basis in fact and truth. Why can’t Ms. Mutoko provide evidence to substantiate her persistent claims that public officers in the film industry are asking for bribes from filmmakers? As a citizen, let alone journalist, it is within her power to initiate action. The preposterous insinuation that filming officers have sought bribes from producers without evidence is both irresponsible and actionable. If you have tenable evidence, why not submit it to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission?

2. The suggestion that PS Okudo plagiarized my response on the issues raised in Ms. Mutoko’s video is a thoughtless claim; unreasonable and incorrect to boot. The fact that PS Okudo’s comments were similar to my clarifications is a product of the stubborn nature of fact. Reality is informed by facts and the truth is consistent.

3. There is no single complaint filed by any foreign filmmaker citing frustration or mistreatment by any regulator in Kenya. In fact, KFCB issues filming licenses to both local and foreign filmmakers within a record fifteen minutes after application. In the FY 2017/2018 alone, we have licensed more than 400 foreign filmmakers to film in the country. We continue to receive crews from Germany, Australia, UK, Spain, among other countries. It is on this basis that we reaffirm our position that filmmakers who opt for other countries to make their films are not motivated by a frustrating regulatory environment but unique locale preferences. No single filming license request by a foreign film maker intending to film in Kenya has been rejected.

4. It is worth noting that the volume of films made in Kenya has increased significantly over the past few years. Contrary to Ms. Mutoko’s claims, the interest in Kenya has increased tremendously. On average, the Board receives weekly requests from the Ministry of Tourism to facilitate waivers for films aimed at promoting the country. Similarly, we are working with various embassies to promote films that promote cultural aspects and integration. We are working with the Kenya Tourism Board and other Government agencies to sustain Kenya’s longstanding reputation as the preferred filming destination.

5. Ms. Mutoko should recognize that armchair perspectives on important issues can be anything but progressive. If she needs accurate information on why filming in Kenya is not prohibitive, we are ready and willing to provide it. In fact, in my earlier post, I shared the statistics on the number of foreign film crews that we have licensed this financial year. It is unprecedented.

However, the impending operanalization of the film policy will comprehensively address other incentives like rebates and funding opportunities for fledgling filmmakers in the local industry.

6. Ms. Mutoko’s claims are a classic case of ignorance about Kenya’s creative industry. For how else can one explain the fact that she does not know the distinction between KFCB’s mandate and that of the Kenya Film Commission (KFC)? If her declaration that she is able to read long documents is true, she should not have any difficulty, then, perusing the basic statutes that assign distinct functions to KFC and KFCB. For the record, KFCB regulates film content while marketing Kenya as a filming destination is within the scope of KFC’s mandate.

Be that as it may, I admire the zeal with which Ms. Mutoko is thinking about the film industry. I wish this passion was informed by good faith. The film industry has the potential to transform the country. Granted, we have a long way to go in making policies that ensure that we remain competitive and attractive, but propaganda and twisting of facts does not help the situation.

I encourage Ms. Mutoko to sustain the conversation, but ensure her arguments are based on facts. I am willing to meet her and discuss these issues in detail, but the misleading commentaries cannot go unchallenged. The Government remains open for any factual ideas she might have to enrich our programs designed to promote the film industry.

Dr. Ezekiel Mutua