5 February 2018

Kenya: NTV, Ktn News Back On Air

Photo: Nairobi News
Blank screens of leading television stations NTV, Citizen and KTN and a live K24 one in the Nation newsrom on February, 2.

Two television stations switched off a week ago by the government for airing opposition leader Raila Odinga's "oath" ceremony are back on air.

NTV and KTN News resumed normal programming yesterday afternoon after the Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) finally complied with a court order issued last week on Friday ordering that the stations be allowed back on air.

However, by the time of going to press Monday evening, Citizen TV and Inooro TV were yet to be reinstated.

'OATH'

CA switched off the stations on January 30 mid-morning to prevent a live broadcast of the "swearing-in" of Mr Odinga as the "people's president" at Uhuru Park, Nairobi.

NTV, owned by Nation Media Group, was the first to go off air, followed by Citizen TV of Royal Media Services Ltd.

Two hours later, Standard Group's KTN was switched off.

The media blackout was roundly condemned by the UN, the US, European Union and human rights organisations. International media stations from around the globe also highlighted the government's defiance to keep the stations off-air, despite a court order to restore broadcast.

The court had also directed the government to stop interfering with television transmissions before the case is heard on February 14.

The government's decision to wait three days before complying with the order has raised questions about adherence to the rule of law, and has seen activists sue the government for contempt of court.

Earlier Monday, human rights activists and NGOs were teargassed to bar them from going to Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i's office to protest the continued media blockade.

Protesters took to the streets of Nairobi to condemn the switching off of the three TV stations.

"We have seen arrests by police in the last few days that are a reminder of where the country has come from. All the signs indicate that the country is turning into a police state. Now, we are here to state that we will not allow a situation where the government turns this country into a police state," said Mr George Kegoro, the executive director of Kenya Human Rights Commission.

Bunge la Mwananchi national president Josephat Waema gave the government until 7pm yesterday to switch on the stations. He said citizens did not have any other way of keeping up with live news, terming the move an infringement on the citizens' right to information.

In addition to the protest, the lobby has also filed a petition in court with regards to the Cabinet secretary nominations made by President Uhuru Kenyatta two weeks ago. Mr Kegoro said most of the nominees were from two areas of the country hence no equitable regional representation. He added that the two-thirds gender rule was not followed, with only six of the 22 slots in Cabinet being given to women.

Atheists in Kenya (AIK) have also condemned the move by the government to muzzle the media, terming it unconstitutional.

"It is precisely when the free media is telling us what we don't want to hear, when it is challenging government officials, exposing government misconduct and refusing to be the unofficial mouthpiece of any government agency that the press stands most in need of that constitutional protection," said Ms Joyce Atieno, the AIK vice president.

Among the protesters were those who claimed a fire that left more than 5,000 people in Lang'ata's Kijiji slum homeless was planned by the government.

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