ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru has refused to explain switch-off of four private TV stations during Raila Odinga’s mock swearing-in in late January.
Mr Mucheru on Tuesday told the Senate Committee on Information, Communication and Technology that he did not have answers because the blackout was “a national security issue.”
Instead, he asked MPs to seek answers from the National Security Council, chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta.
“I will not answer the who and why of the shutdown because I am not the one who did it. I am also not authorised to discuss security matters in the glare of cameras,” Mr Mucheru said, noting that there is a pending court case that complicates the issues the MPs wanted him to tell the country.
He denied responsibility for the 10-day shutdown that saw broadcasters suffer heavy losses.
In its wisdom, the government considered Mr Odinga’s event a “national security” threat, and even went ahead to advise media houses against covering it.
But in the discharge of their constitutional mandate, the TV stations covered the 'swearing-in' at Uhuru Park, Nairobi, before they were switched off air one by one.
Attempts by senators Gideon Moi, who is also the committee chairman, Enock Wambua (Kitui), Samuel Poghisio (West Pokot), Malachy Imana (Turkana) and Abshiro Halakhe (nominated) to have Mr Mucheru respond to the issues failed as he kept on referring to the National Security Council.
“When the NSC invokes their actions, it is not me to respond to, it is about security of the country and the reasons they have,” Mr Mucheru said as Mr Moi and the committee members resigned to fate.
Mr Mucheru had twice snubbed the committee’s invitations, citing a Cabinet meeting and foreign travel.
Kericho Senator Mr Aaron Cheruiyot, who breathed fire the first time Mr Mucheru failed to appear before the committee, was tellingly silent.
He did not even raise a point of order regarding the way the Cs was taking the senators round in circles.
The Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) switched off the signals of NTV owned by Nation Media Group, KTN News owned by The Standard Group, and Citizen TV and Inooro TV both owned by Royal Media Services Limited on January 30.
The switch-off came barely a day after the Kenya Editors Guild accused President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto of undermining the independence.
The blackout was preceded by a meeting held at State House, Nairobi, in which the media was warned against covering the Nasa event.
Article 34 of the Constitution guarantees media freedom and says that the state shall not exercise control over or interfere with any person engaged in broadcasting, the production or circulation of any publication or the dissemination of information by any medium; or penalise any person for any opinion or view or the content of any broadcast, publication or dissemination.
Contacted for comment in the wake of the shutdown, Mr Mucheru on January 30 said: “Switched off by who? I am not talking to the media.”