Kenya TV stations to remain shut

Kenya's Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i. FILE | NATION MEDIA GROUP 

The Cabinet Secretary for Interior and Coordination of National government, Dr Fred Matiang’i, has said that three TV stations shut down Tuesday by the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) will remain closed until investigations over their supposed links with the opposition coalition Nasa wing of the National Resistance Movement, which he outlawed on Tuesday, are concluded.

The three, Nation Media Group’s NTV, Citizen TV of Royal Media Services Limited and KTN News channel, had their main transmission centres in Limuru (west of Nairobi) blocked, while the state run Kenya Broadcasting Corporation and K24, associated with President Uhuru Kenyatta, were allowed to operate.

Public disquiet

Dr Matiang’i’s announcement comes amid public disquiet over the government’s arbitrary shutdown of the three private TV stations.

The Central Organisation of Trade Unions (Cotu) Secretary-General, Mr Francis Atwoli, has accused the government of interfering with the freedom of the media.

CA shut down the TV stations on Tuesday as they prepared to cover the “swearing-in” of Nasa leader Raila Odinga as the people’s president at Uhuru Park in Nairobi.

Mr Atwoli, who spoke in Nairobi Wednesday, said the move was illegal and went against the Constitution of Kenya, which grants the freedom of the media, access to information and right to fair administrative action, among others.

“The government should move with speed and restore the operations of these TV stations. It is not only wrong but unconstitutional to block them for going about their normal business of informing Kenyans,” Mr Atwoli said.

“This is not the time to go retrogressive,” he added.

“It doesn’t even happen in countries where presidents are hell-bent on causing problems to their people. The media have a right to cover events without harassment or intimidation.”

The shutdown is a culmination of fears by the Kenya Editors Guild Chairman, Mr Linus Kaikai, that President Kenyatta “expressly threatened” to shut down and revoke the licences of any media house that would broadcast live the planned “swearing-in” of Nasa leaders.

Rightful role

According to Mr Kaikai, the “threats” were issued at State House on January 26 after media owners were summoned for briefing over the Nasa event.

“The Guild is appalled by the details of the meeting which was held under an atmosphere of intimidation for the media representatives present. This brazen threat is intended to intimidate the media from performing its rightful role of informing the public on matters affecting them,” Mr Kaikai said.

The Kenya Union of Journalists Secretary-General Erick Oduor also condemned the government crackdown on the media.

“This is unacceptable and can only support our analysis that we are facing the worst threats in the history of this country as the media,” Mr Oduor said.

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