Kenya’s “ethical policeman” Ezekiel Mutua is on the centre of a brand new storm after banning two well-liked songs, however the ex-journalist relishes his position, writes the BBC’s Ashley Lime from Nairobi.
Once I met Mr Mutua the primary issues I seen have been his pencil-thin moustache and pleasant smile.
The chief govt of the Kenya Movie Classification Board (KFCB) warmly welcomed me into his workplace, however his attraction belies his fame as a stern “ethical policeman” who censors movies, songs, and tv adverts which function sexualised content material and same-sex relationships.
A music with references to oral intercourse, adverts for a “intercourse celebration” and a movie that includes a lesbian couple have all felt the drive of Mr Mutua’s motion.
However the former journalist, who’s a religious Christian, objects to being referred to as a censor.
“Censorship connotes some dictatorial and colonial tendencies,” Mr Mutua says.
He’s extra comfy with the moniker “ethical policeman”, although it took him some time to embrace it.
Basically, Kenya has a conventional and socially conservative tradition, however this has been challenged in recent times by some within the youthful technology.
This nation want me, however it wants extra individuals to behave as ethical champions”
The explosion in the usage of social media has fuelled extra open discussions about intercourse and relationships, and the humanities have mirrored this.
Mr Mutua is on the frontline of this tradition conflict.
“At first I used to be actually offended when [critics] referred to me as ethical policeman, however with time I realised that not solely does this nation want me, however it wants extra individuals to behave as ethical champions,” he mentioned.
‘Soiled and unsuitable’
On the helm of KFCB since 2015, he has typically been on the centre of controversy, with Kenyans expressing combined reactions to his directives.
The place provides him the facility to price and classify movies and no movie will be proven in Kenya with out being categorised.
He additionally believes that he has oversight over different audio-visual output on TV and on-line, however some dispute that his powers go that far.
In his newest transfer, on Tuesday, Mr Mutua banned two hit songs Wamlambez and Tetema from being performed in public, besides in golf equipment and bars.
In a Twitter submit, he mentioned the 2 songs have been “pure pornography” and “soiled and unsuitable for combined firm”.
The lyrics for Wamlambez, launched in April, are in Sheng, a slang utilized by younger individuals throughout Kenya, and have metaphors alluding to oral intercourse.
The music, by Kenyan group Sailors, is so well-liked that the phrases “wamlambez” and “wamnyonyez” – a corruption of phrases which means “lick” and “suck” – have develop into commonplace greetings amongst many younger individuals.
The video, which has been considered practically 4 million instances on YouTube, additionally options lewd dance strikes.
Mr Mutua additionally criticised nationwide leaders for singing and dancing “to the obscenity in public”.
In relation to Tetema (which means “twerking” in Swahili), by Tanzanian artist Diamond Platnumz, Mr Mutua has described the lyrics as soiled.
The ethical policeman has acquired each reward and criticism for his directive.
One commenter, backing the ban, mentioned some songs have been a “shame”.
However a critic referred to as Mr Mutua “annoying” and accused him of creating “choices for adults”.
Most of the strange individuals I spoke to within the capital, Nairobi, supported Mr Mutua’s transfer. Some advised me they thought he ought to have acted sooner on condition that youngsters had already began singing the lyrics.
In April, he banned a music by native musician Alvin, who’s popularly generally known as Alvindo, referred to as Takataka (which means “garbage” in Swahili), saying it was an incitement to violence in opposition to ladies by “rejected” males.
“The music Takataka is characterised by crude language that objectifies ladies and glorifies hurting them as a traditional response to rejection,” Mr Mutua mentioned in a press release on the time.
However critics on social media mentioned the transfer was akin to banning Romeo and Juliet for “glorifying homicide and suicide”.
Mr Mutua chided one other native musician, Akothee, in February after footage of her pulling raunchy stunts throughout a public efficiency went viral on social media.
He mentioned the stunts have been “filthy”, “silly” and “demonic”.
In 2016, he banned a celebration after its organisers circulated publicity posters in Nairobi declaring “nobody goes again residence a virgin”, and it might be “one evening to lose your thoughts”.
The celebration was organised so individuals might make and promote movies of pornography and drug abuse, Mr Mutua mentioned on the time.
Mr Mutua additionally outlawed a girls-only speed-dating celebration set to happen in Nairobi three years in the past, saying its flier prompt the members could be lesbians.
Regardless of the backlash, he’s unrepentant about his choices, saying youngsters are given “bizarre” perceptions of life by individuals who “introduce issues which are overseas to Kenya’s tradition and undermine the household unit by saying a person and one other man can kind a household”.
He argues that central to his work is the safety of kids from dangerous content material comparable to nudity, foul language, obscenity and violence.
Of the numerous choices Mr Mutua has made, the one which raised his profile worldwide was when, in 2018, the KFCB banned the Kenyan movie Rafiki, directed by Wanuri Kahiu.
The movie, which was because of have its premiere on the Cannes Movie Pageant, depicts the story of two younger ladies, Kena and Ziki, who meet and fall in love.
However the board mentioned the movie had been restricted over “its gay theme and clear intent to advertise lesbianism in Kenya”. Gay acts are unlawful in Kenya and are punishable by 14 years in jail.
“That is not a film that is going to outline the movie business on this nation – we do not permit homosexual content material,” maintains the movie regulator.
When Rafiki was initially banned, the director tweeted she was “extremely unhappy” that her movie couldn’t be legally watched in her residence nation.
However Mr Mutua says the choices he makes are about religion, tradition and morality, and that “offensive content material” in movies can basically impression the tradition of the nation.
‘Violating household values’
The record of different movies that the KFCB has banned, together with Wolf of Wall Road and Fifty Shades of Gray, underlines this message
Wolf of Wall Road was banned due to “excessive scenes of nudity, intercourse, alcohol, drug taking and profanity”, the KFCB mentioned
Tv adverts are additionally topic to KFCB regulation, and in 2016 Coca Cola was pressured to take away adverts that includes a kissing couple, which the movie board mentioned violated “household values”.
The expansion of the web in Kenya, Mr Mutua says, has made his job troublesome, and fogeys look to the board for steerage throughout lengthy holidays.
Critics accuse the ethical cop of overreaching his authority, however Mr Mutua says his choices are primarily based on the legislation and he has to use the legislation.
A variety of the backlash he will get, he provides, relies on a lack of information and what he sees because the breakdown of the ethical cloth the place individuals have no idea the distinction between proper and unsuitable behaviour.
“There may be a lot noise from the general public,” says Mr Mutua.
“These guys on social media are only a few however they’ll make you are feeling as if your complete nation is in opposition to you,” .
And when Kenyans thought the ethical policeman was on his means out on the finish of his tenure final October, the administrators at KFCB renewed his contract for 3 extra years.
Function of faith
There has been a debate on Mr Mutua’s powers, with some critics saying that it isn’t his position to censor music and shield youngsters. However others reward him, saying he works onerous and will get outcomes.
In 2018, the state company that oversees broadcasting criticised the KFCB for issuing tips on the airing of adverts, saying the board’s mandate was restricted to score broadcast content material and never controlling it.
Nonetheless, Mr Mutua says the legislation empowers him to ban songs and even events deemed immoral as enshrined in the Film and Stage Plays Act .
As a practising Christian, Mr Mutua is usually criticised for utilizing non secular rules to assist him make choices.
However he says he makes no secret of who he’s.
“I do not practise my religion below the carpet, I do it overtly and it informs my choices to a big extent.”
He insists, nevertheless, that he doesn’t “regulate utilizing the Bible”.
Mr Mutua says that whereas Kenya has develop into a liberal democracy, the place freedom of expression is enshrined within the structure, it doesn’t imply that it ought to abandon its tradition.
And he’s ready to police the frontline.