Lawyers sue Kenya government over TV shutdown

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

The Law Society of Kenya has revived a protest against shut down of three private television stations by the government early this year.

Although the High Court issued an order on suspending the shutdown in a different case and the three TV stations are back on air, the lawyers’ body claimed in a new suit that the rights of those media houses were violated.

Through lawyer Daniel Musyoka, LSK has sued the Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, his counterpart in ICT Joe Mucheru, the Director General of the Communicational Authority and the Attorney-General.

National values

Three private leading media firms, Royal Media Services, Nation Media Group and the Standard Group are listed as interested parties in the suit filed Tuesday.

LSK mainly pointed a finger at the Communication Authority Director General Francis Wangusi for failing to give any justifiable reasons before proceeding with the shutdown that continued for at least seven days.

LSK accused the sued parties of violating national values and principles, violating the right to seek, receive and impart information, independence of media as well as fair administrative action.

“At all material times, the sued parties whether acting jointly or severally abused their power and authority by acting in a partisan, subjective as well as dictatorial manner,” said Mr Musyoka.

NTV, KTN and Citizen Tv were switched off on January 30 for airing a live broadcast of the mock swearing-in of the opposition coalition National Super Alliance (Nasa) leader Raila Odinga at Nairobi’s Uhuru park.

According to Dr Matiang’i during a press conference on January 31, he said media owners and other relevant actors had been given a full security situation brief ahead of that event however some of them allegedly ignored.

Held liable

He had categorically said that police were looking into the “role of some elements in the media fraternity who participated in the furtherance of an attempt to subvert or overthrow the government”.

But LSK claimed that the actions of the Authority’s boss and Dr Matiang’i were carried out in full knowledge and support of the ICT Cs hence they are all supposed to be held liable for interfering with viewership of the stations with the largest viewership as per a 2017 survey report on television national market share.

High Court judge Enoch Chacha Mwita said he will issue further directions in the case on May 21.

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