The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) on Wednesday emphasised the necessity for clear policies on religious programming in response to the Shakahola cult massacre.
Alfred Ambani, the Deputy Director of Multimedia Services at Communication Authority, voiced concern that the lack of policies had played a significant role in enabling Pastor Paul Mackenzie, associated with the Shakahola cult activities, to broadcast his message through Times Television.
“The authority hence does not have the standard to measure what happens in churches and what they air. A clear way forward on religious programming would go a long way in helping us to take action promptly,” he said during a media training workshop in Naivasha.
On April 28, 2023, the Authority took action by suspending Pastor Mackenzie’s television station and that of Ezekiel Odero, the World Evangelism Tv, for airing inappropriate exorcism content during the watershed period, as well as violating 12 other regulations.
Pastor Mackenzie of the Good News International Church, a former taxi driver turned preacher, is the main suspect in the probe.
Police accuse him of inciting his followers to fast to death “to meet Jesus.”
Ambani emphasized that holding CA responsible for the Shakahola massacre is certainly unwarranted, highlighting that the agency’s decision to suspend the television stations was not a knee-jerk reaction.
“The authority’s policies are consultative and here Kenyans can help us better on how best we can improve our services,” he said.
-Communications Authority views-
On June 13, 2023, the presidential task force on religious institutions will commence gathering opinions on how to enhance the regulation of these institutions.
Ambani stated that this initiative would greatly contribute to bringing clarity to the programming code of religious institutions that own television stations.
“The authority shall definitely be giving its own views and we are hopeful that this will bring clarity on how we will be acting going forward,” he said.
Mackenzie is in custody alongside his wife and 16 other people as investigations continue.
It remains a puzzle to date how Mackenzie, a father of seven, managed to evade law enforcement despite a history of extremism and previous legal cases.
The government has in the meantime announced its intention to transform the Shakahola forest into a national memorial.
As the investigation into the cult continues, the death toll currently stands at 251, with detectives diligently searching the vast forest for any additional bodies.