- Eric Omondi arrested along side 15 members of his cast
- Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) boss Dr Ezekiel Mutua complained that he was illegally filming and was producing unrated, explicit content.
- The comedian and his cast risk facing five years in jail or a fine of Sh200,000 or both for violating provisions of the Films and Stage Plays Act Cap 222.
The King of comedy Eric Omondi was dramatically arrested on Thursday and spent the night in Central Police Station long side 15 members of his cast after Kenya Film Classification Board (KFCB) boss Dr Ezekiel Mutua complained that he was illegally filming and was producing unrated, explicit content.
The comedian and his cast were later released from the Police custody on a Sh50,000 police bond and ordered to appear in court on Thursday, March 18, to face charges.
Omondi was forced to reach out to KFCB boss and apologized hours after his release. He said he had a long phone call with Dr Mutua over the controversial Wife Material show, which many claim has explicit content and objectifies women.
“I have had a very long phone call with my very good friend Daktari Ezekiel Mutua and he is of the very strong opinion that ‘Wife Material’ does not have to be dirty to sell. I completely agree with him and I have sent him a personal apology,” he said. He further noted that the popular reality show Wife Material could end abruptly.
“To all the amazing, beautiful and gorgeous (East African) ladies who participated in #WifeMaterial2 thaaank you. You are angelic. You can be sure Season Three will be bigger, better, cleaner and will be the biggest thing Africa has ever seen,” he wrote on his social media pages.
He said although he had come under fierce criticism over the content, he regretted the whole idea behind the reality show, which was to entertain and bring East Africa together.
“To compete internationally, we need to put our best foot forward. The creative process can be long and tedious and whenever a new idea is born, it comes with a lot of teething problems. We promise to be better and do better,” he added.
His sentiments came as other Kenyan entertainers showed him tough love while calling out the “moral cop” Dr Mutua for trying to rule the industry with an “iron fist”.
Martin Githinji, an actor and director, known for the Sue Na Jonnie TV comedy series, The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind and Auntie Boss, did not mince his words, noting that there has been a spat between Eric and Ezekiel for a while now, with threats, insults and accusations between the two.
“When you hear Wife Material there is a sense of structure that you’d expect from the setup of such a show. It leans towards a family layout. So on the general path of the show, yes, I might have my reservations to the content direction that Eric was taking, but that does not mean that I agree with the turn of events,” said Mr Githinji.
He added that the freedom for content creators on alternative platforms from TV and Cinema is very critical for the creative economy.
“If we condone what Ezekiel is doing, we’ll be giving him a weapon of suppression. But on the flip side, are we saying that condoning “Wife Material” will be normalising cringe-worthy content? Perhaps, perhaps not. But there is a fine line between entertainment and excesses, and the show was dabbling on either side.”
Maureen Koech, a producer, echoed Mr Githinji’s sentiments saying that artistes have a responsibility to ensure that they positively influence society.
“Our children are our future hence what they consume will heavily determine who they will be tomorrow. That being said, I think the government should in turn allow a conducive environment for arts and culture to flourish and not impose retrogressive laws that curtail creativity and expression. We as artistes are doing our best to create value that will benefit everyone. Let’s support instead of bringing each other down,” she said.
The comedian and his cast risk facing five years in jail or a fine of Sh200,000 or both for violating provisions of the Films and Stage Plays Act Cap 222. According to the KFCB boss, Omondi, who runs Wife Material show on his YouTube, Facebook and Instagram pages, has not submitted the said content for classification by the Board.
“Cap 222 of the Laws of Kenya states that no person shall exhibit any film at an exhibition to which the public are admitted or distribute such film unless he is registered as an exhibitor or distributor by the Board and issued with a certificate,”
According to Dr Mutua, the board is waiting for the police to compile the charges which might range from exhibiting pornographic material, illegal entry of aliens and disturbance. “This man lies to these girls and performs a mock wedding in the name of a show. These girls who have come from other countries must have permission to film in the country and since his first show, he has not applied for any license. We will know more about his charges when he is arraigned.” Said Dr. Mutua
ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru supported KFCB bossfor arresting Omondi, saying the government won’t sit back and watch as young people are corrupted by sexually-explicit content produced by “so-called artists”. The CS spoke in Naivasha where he presided over a meeting with a task force on the development of National Film Policy and Bill.
“Some artistes are using the coronavirus pandemic to produce and promote illegal content. We will not relax until they are all arrested and convicted,” he said.