Publishing personal details of minors in crime is illegal: Supreme Court of Kenya.

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Author: Thuo

The Supreme Court in Kenya has recently held that for minors who have been charged with criminal offenses, publication 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 their respective 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 Court’s decision.

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 24.

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 of information relating to minors’ criminal activities in Kenya.