Two Kenyan TV channels silenced for the past week

Reporters Without Borders (RSF) calls on the Kenyan government to stop trying to restrict media freedom and to lift the suspension of two TV channels that have been unable to broadcast for the past seven days despite a court ruling in their favour.

Citizen TV, a commercial channel, and Inooro TV, a community station, were taken off the air on 31 January for defying a ban on covering opposition leader Raila Odinga’s mock inauguration as president.

A week later, they are still being denied a broadcast signal, despite a high court ruling on 1 February that they should be allowed resume broadcasting provisionally pending examination of the case against them.

Interior minister Fred Matiangi thinks otherwise. He has announced that they will remain off the air and has even accused some journalists of being accomplices of the National Super Alliance (NASA), the main opposition coalition.

His targets include Linus Kaikai, the chairman of the Kenya Editors’ Guild and head of NTV, a commercial TV channel owned by the Nation Media Group. When armed plainclothes police took up position outside the Nation Media Group’s headquarters on 31 January, he and two colleagues remained inside all night because police sources warned them they would arrested if they left.

Three days earlier, Kaikai had posted a Kenya Editors’ Guild statement on Twitter expressing alarm about the government’s growing readiness to censor the media.

In all four TV channels were taken off the air on 31 January for defying President Uhuru Kenyatta’s orders not to provide live coverage of Odinga’s symbolic swearing-in as “people’s president.” Two of them, NTV and KTN, were able to resume broadcasting yesterday.

“You cannot cherry-pick who the high court decision applies to,” RSF said. “All the TV channels that were deprived of their signal must be able to resume broadcasting, as the court ruled. Prolonging their suspension is a political decision that harms media independence and restricts the right to be informed, a right guaranteed in the constitution.”

The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights has also voiced concern about the Kenyan government’s attempts to interfere with the right to freedom of expression, including its threat to rescind the licences of the TV channels that broadcast the Odinga mock inauguration.

Kenya is ranked 95th out of 180 countries in RSF's 2017 World Press Freedom Index.

(c) 2018 Reporters Without Borders

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