Publishing personal details of minors in crime is illegal: Supreme Court of Kenya.
The Supreme Court in Kenya has recently held that for minors who have been charged with criminal
of their story together with their images and names amounts to a violation of their constitutional
rights. The roots of
the case can be traced to a time when some High School students were arraigned before the Magistrate
Court in Kenya for arson-related charges.
Most Media houses then published images of those students together with their names, school, and
alleged involvement in the burning of their school. Subsequently, unhappy with the publications, the
students sued some
media houses through their parents or guardians arguing that in publishing their details in the
manner they did, the
media houses ignored the minors’ right to privacy and their best interest. As such, they asked the
court to declare that
their fundamental rights and freedoms had been violated.
In their defense, the media houses argued that the publication complaints were accurate of the
events in court and were
published in the public interest given the prevalence of violence in secondary schools by then. The
media houses further
argued that by publishing the student's stories, they were exercising their constitutional right to
freedom of speech
and expression. The High Court of Kenya disallowed the students’ case. On appeal, the court of
appeal affirmed the High
The case ended up in the Supreme Court and one of the issues that the Supreme Court was invited to
resolve was whether
the public interest in publishing the images of children in a criminal trial outweighs the best
interest of the child.
After considering the case, the Supreme Court found that public interest cannot be raised over the
protection and the
best interest of the children. The Supreme Court noted as follows:- “With respect, we agree with the
students that the
courts below erred in raising the status of public interest over the protection and the best
interest of the children
and their rights to privacy without properly subjecting the limitation to the provisions of Article
The intrusion upon the privacy of the children by publishing their particulars was demeaning not
only to their dignity
as individuals but also to the integrity of their parents and the wider society of which they are
part. The names,
images, and videos of the appellants were not essential for purposes of public information” While
some people have
expressed disappointment over the judgment, the decision will have ripple effects on the publication
relating to minors’ criminal activities in Kenya.