Kenya: TV Stations Switch Off a Throwback to Dark Days

TV camera persons at work (file photo).
31 January 2018

While Kenya has one of the freest media spaces on the African continent, it has intermittently faced repression from the government.

In the 90s, the government had an atrocious reputation as a muzzler of the press.

The Free Press Commission in 1994 criticised the government for what it called blatant harassment and persecution of journalists through the relentless abuse of the legal machinery and use of police.

Opposition MPs also condemned a police raid on Colourprint Press in 1995, saying it was uncivilised and unforgivable.

MACHARIA ARRESTED

On April 2001, Citizen TV and radio were driven off the air after a morning raid by CID officers.

Royal Media Services chairman Samuel Kamau Macharia and company security chief John Chege were arrested.

The statutory broadcast regulator, the Communication Commission of Kenya, later claimed Citizen - owned by Royal Media Services -- had illegally re-sited its transmission base by moving it from Limuru, without the commission's permission.

STANDARD RAID

In 2006, armed and hooded police raided the Standard newspaper and KTN offices in Nairobi.

The raids followed a running dispute between the media house and the government over a story in the Saturday Standard alleging that then President Mwai Kibaki had held a secret meeting with one of his fiercest critics, former Cabinet minister Kalonzo Musyoka.

Thousands of copies of the newspaper were burnt by the men and the government later confirmed it had ordered police to raid the media group's offices.

The then unapologetic Internal Security minister John Michuki said: "If you rattle a snake, you must be prepared to be bitten by it."

DIGITAL MIGRATION

In 2015, the government also denied the public right to receive information after switching off analogue television transmission to implement a self-imposed deadline for digital television switch.

The availability and affordability of the set-top boxes was a core part of the media owners' request for more time to migrate -- a request the CA and Information ministry vehemently opposed.

Just before last year's August General Election, ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru threatened to shutdown media houses that would announce election results before the electoral agency.

"Hata nyinyi (even you) media you are not IEBC. The Constitution gives IEBC the responsibility to announce results.

"Nobody else. If the media tries to announce results hata hiyo tutafunga (we will shut you down)," Mr Mucheru said during an event he had attended in Nyeri in July.

President of the Law Society of Kenya Isaac Okero said Tuesday's shutdown of Citizen TV, NTV and KTN television stations, which was extended on Wednesday, is a violation of the Constitution.

He said according to the law, the CA is supposed to be independent to exercise its functions.

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