Kenya TV shutdown: Court suspends ban imposed over Odinga ‘inauguration’

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Kenya’s High Court has suspended the government’s shutdown of three of the country’s largest private TV channels.

KTN, NTV, and Citizen TV were taken off the air over plans to broadcast opposition leader Raila Odinga’s unofficial “inauguration” on Tuesday.

The court has suspended the ban for 14 days while the case is heard.

Currently the stations remain off-air and there is no sign the government will comply with the ruling, reports the BBC’s Gladys Kigo in Nairobi.

Mr Odinga lost last year’s election and his swearing-in was widely seen as a publicity stunt, but the authorities said it was an act of treason.

Opposition groups have accused the Kenyan government of violating the public’s right to information about important events.

When asked about the matter, Joseph Mucheru, the minister of information, communication and technology, told the BBC it was a security issue and that only the security minister could answer the question of when the stations would be able to broadcast again.

The High Court also ordered the state not to interfere with the operation of KTN, NTV, and Citizen TV pending a full hearing.

The channels were taken off the air on Tuesday morning ahead of the swearing-in, but continue to stream their content online.

The interior ministry said in a statement circulating on social media that broadcasting the event – described as an attempt to “subvert or overthrow” the government – “would have led to the deaths of thousands of innocent Kenyans”.

Kenyan journalists denounced the move as outrageous and in a statement called for “respect of the constitution” and an end to the “unprecedented intimidation of journalists”.

Some journalists have been camping out in their newsrooms for fear of being arrested.

Linus Kaikai, the head of NTV, said: “We were informed by very reliable sources that policemen were downstairs and what they wanted to do was to arrest us when we leave the building, so we have since that time not left the building.”

BBC analysts say KTN, NTV and Citizen TV are perceived to offer relatively independent and balanced news coverage, though they have been criticised by the opposition in the past.

In their absence, some Kenyans are turning to newspapers and social media for their news. Others are going to the state-owned KBC and the private K24 TV. The two stations usually attract low viewership due to their pro-government bias.

 

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