Freedom of speech activists have criticised the film regulator’s decision to ban several movies, among them Fifty Shades of Grey, saying that it infringes on artistic expression.
Article 19, an organisation that defends free expression and freedom of information, has faulted the Kenya Film Classification Board’s decision to restrict exhibition and distribution of the movie across the country.
“This is the fifth film to be banned in Kenya in the recent past. This is deeply worrying, considering it comes just after the recently enacted security laws, which also introduced broad and vague grounds for the banning of photographs and broadcasts,” the group said in a statement.
Bishop Jackson Kosgei, the chairperson of the board said Fifty Shades of Grey was restricted because of “prolonged and explicit sexual scenes depicting women as sexual slaves”.
“The continued banning of certain films in Kenya without giving detailed reasons for such censorship is a big blow to artistic expression and a clear violation of artistic freedom guaranteed by the Constitution of Kenya,” said Mr Henry Maina, Article 19’s Eastern Africa regional director.
The movie as restricted on Thursday, with the board saying it was too graphic to be screened even to adults.
But Article 19 wants this decision rescinded and the movie made available for adult viewing.
“While under international standards, states can limit freedom of expression in the interest of public order and public morals, a number of important factors must be examined.
“These include whether the expression was in fact harmful, whether the concept of public morals was not applied in a discriminatory fashion and whether the sanction is proportionate to aim pursued,” Article 19 says.
In Australia the movie was rated as suitable for persons aged over 15, while in France it was found suitable for viewing by those above the age of 12.
The movie was slated for local release on February 14.