Legal services division holds annual legal awareness workshop

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Participants take a photo outside the Freida Brown Student Centre during the annual legal awareness workshop

By Division of Legal Services & Company Secretary

The Legal Services Division held its annual Legal Awareness Workshop on 8-9 May under the theme ICT and the Law: Ethics, Rights & Limitations.

The workshop has become a lasting tradition since the division held the inaugural workshop in May of 2017. Attendees included faculty, staff, students and guests from other institutions of higher education. This year’s workshop attracted participants from as far as Eldoret. In her welcome address, the Director-Legal Services, Ms. Helen Ambasa highlighted the division’s mandate and the topics covered in previous workshops. She noted that the division curated the workshop program with all demographics in mind and with a deep awareness of the responsibilities and freedoms borne by all, both as individuals and corporate citizens. The Vice Chancellor, Prof. Zeleza, echoed those sentiments in his opening remarks where he reiterated the special significance of the legal workshop by underscoring the importance of utilizing human capital for development in this information age.

Participants had the honor of hearing from a panel of experts over the two day period. Topics of focus included: Constitutional rights & limitations in the cyber space; An employer’s role in training employees on online conduct; Activism on the cyber space (social media); Intellectual property rights in the cyber space; Internet jurisprudence and sexual harassment - the legality of reporting cases online; An employer’s perspective on employees’ use of social media; data protection; and digital marketing – How to use it to combat negative public perception.

The facilitators, drawn from various professions, concentrated on responsible online conduct. The first day’s speakers included: Mrs. Sharon Chahale-Wata, the Assistant Director Legal & Technical Services at Kenya Copyright Board, who took participants through the various intellectual property rights that accrue in the cyberspace and distinguishing between industrial property & copyright. She emphasized that copyright protects expression of ideas and not ideas themselves and that copyright owners, particularly on the internet, must take a proactive role in protecting their rights. Mr. Fred Waithaka, the Head of Legal & Secretarial Services at Safaricom Limited, guided the attendees on the employer’s role in training employees on how to conduct themselves online. He highlighted the benefits and risks of internet and social media use, and underscored the fact that an employee should align their online conduct with the company’s culture.

Mr. Steve Ogolla, an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya & Managing Partner at Steve Ogolla Advocates, led a session on the constitutional rights and limitations on the internet. He laid emphasis on the importance of exercising restraint and applying common sense to balance between the right of freedom of expression and other people’s rights to bodily integrity, dignity, and security. Participants were also taken through leveraging digital marketing to mitigate and manage negative public perception. This session was facilitated by the Senior Manager- PR & Communications at Safaricom Limited, Mr. Chris Karanja. Mr. Karanja cited the Safaricom experience in combating negative public perception on digital platforms and outlined five strategies that are useful in this regard, including driving brand love and owning & shaping brand narrative.

The second day of the workshop was commenced by Technology and Intellectual Property Advocate, Ms. Nzilani Mweu who expounded on activism on social media and the balance between public interest and defamation. Ms. Juliet Maina, the Advocacy & Regulatory Manager at GSMA, thereafter handled data protection particularly in the wake of regulation, emphasizing the need to protect one’s data even in cases such as registration for the Huduma Number, which is a government initiative. In emphasizing the significance of personal data and its protection, Ms. Maina pithed that if data is the new oil then trust has to be the new currency.

Mr. Morris Kimuli, an Advocate of the High Court of Kenya and Managing Partner at M. M. Kimuli & Co. Advocates, discussed internet jurisprudence in relation to sexual harassment, highlighting the provisions of the law that define sexual harassment and the penalties prescribed for the offence. The final speaker at the workshop, Mr. John Mwendwa, the Director-Human Resources, Nairobi Bottlers Ltd., spoke about an employer’s perspective on employees’ social media usage and protection afforded to employees who are cyber bullied. Mr. Mwendwa stated that employers have an obligation to protect employees against cyberbullying in the workplace and put in place policies to protect against misuse of social media. He also stressed the importance of organizations having a zero tolerance policy on sexual harassment so as to encourage reporting of cases. This was further reiterated by the Director-Legal Services who urged students to report cases of sexual harassment so perpetrators are identified and appropriate action taken against them.

Attendees who included students, staff and faculty lauded the workshop as informative and well organized, proposing to have the same extended to a duration of one week in the coming years. The Director-Legal Services in her closing remarks thanked participants and facilitators for their audience and assured participants that the division welcomes their feedback and will do all it can to accommodate their requests.

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