Indian Election Commission Issue Campaign Social Media Guidelines
On October 25th the Election Commission of India released guidelines to regulate political campaigns on social media sites. The guidelines ask all political parties to pre-certify advertisements before they are posted on social media sites, and account for payments made to Internet companies and social media websites for posting advertisements, expenditures on marketing and development of creative content, and operational expenditures on salaries and wages paid to staff maintaining social media accounts. Additionally, it requires candidates to disclose their social media accounts. Legal provisions relating to poll campaigning still apply to social media.
New Kenyan Media Law Places Crippling Fines on Offenders
Late on October 31st, Kenyan MPs voted on a bill to set up a new Communications and Multimedia Appeal Tribunal with the powers to bar journalists from working and impose fines of up to $234,000 on offenders who violate a code of conduct The bill would also place strict controls on radio and television broadcasts, obliging stations to ensure that 45 percent of program content and advertising is locally-made. The bill was met with outrage from Kenya’s media community. The Daily Nation newspaper said the bill set Kenya “firmly on the path of regression into the era of darkness,” and “puts the country in the same ranks with Zimbabwe, Cuba, Ethiopia and Kuwait.” Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta pledged to review the media law and former Prime Minister Raila Odinga urged Kenyatta to throw out the bill, stating that the bill goes against the Kenyan Constitution. The bill’s passage comes among a string of measurements reinforcing national security after September’s attack by Islamist gunmen on the Westgate shopping mall.
Myanmar’s Promising Internet Reforms
A recent report by Freedom House indicates growth in Myanmar’s Internet freedom. In 2012 the government began changing its media censorship policies by unblocking banned content and removing requirements that journalists submit content to government censors before publication. This year Myanmar took steps toward deregulating its telecom industry, awarding operating licenses to two foreign companies which are expected to modernize the telecommunications infrastructure, while previously the industry was controlled by a state-owned monopoly. Despite reforms, Myanmar still faces major obstacles in attaining a “free Internet.” Myanmar remains one of the world’s least connected countries and is plagued with accusation of government hacking, Internet throttling, corrupt practices in the telecoms industry, and instigating ethnic tension with fake social media accounts.