Kenya’s Telecommunications regulator shut down the signals of three major independently owned TV and Radio operators in Kenya ahead of Raila Odinga’s controversial ‘Swearing in Ceremony’.
The Communication Authority of Kenya (CA) sent orders to close down the stations who were planning to air the ceremony at Uhuru Park. At the time of writing, the stations have yet to return to air.
Tne Nation reports that CA engineers were on standby at the main transmission station in Limuru, Kiambu County to ‘unplug’ any outlets who defied a government order not to stream the events.
“The Communications Authority of Kenya has switched off Citizen Television and Radio in most parts of the country over the coverage of the NASA ‘swearing-in’ plan,” the Citizen website said, referring to the opposition NASA alliance.
“There has been no official communication as to why this action was taken. We are actively engaging the relevant government authorities to establish the reason for this action.” Royal Media Managing Director Waruru Wachira said, adding that “we hope to resume normal transmission as soon as possible”.
Linus Kaikai, the chairman of Kenya’s Editors Guild and general manager of the TV division of Nation Media Group said that CA officials escorted by armed police officers disconnected broadcasting equipment at the transmission station. He said that there was no reason given.
Mr. Kaikai also spoke of allegations that the Kenyan Government summoned editors to the State House on Friday and were given a ‘dressing down’. In a meeting reportedly attended by Deputy President William Ruto, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiangi, Ministry of Information, Communications and Technology Secretary Joe Mucheru and Attorney General Githu Muigai; Kaikai says that President Kenyatta personally issued draconian threats to shut down offices and revoke the licences of any media house that publicizes the event.
“We have just learnt today that on Friday last week, a section of media managers and select editors from the main media houses were quietly summoned to a meeting at the State House, Nairobi, the objectives which were unknown. But the proceedings should be clear cause for alarm to the media and the public.” Kaikai said.
He added that “The Guild is appalled by the details of the meeting which was held under an atmosphere of intimidation for the media representatives present. Chairman of the Media Owners Association Hannington Gaya on Monday evening confirmed that the tone of the meeting as a ‘dressing down’ in which the media was, quote; ‘read the riot act.’”
Kenya’s attorney general previously likened the swearing in of an alternative president to an act of treason.
“The criminal law of the Republic of Kenya stipulates that sort of process is high treason,” he said. “It is high treason of the persons involved, and any other person facilitating that process.”
Under Kenyan law, treason is punishable by death.
The first to go off the air was NTV (Nation Media Group), followed by Citizen TV ( Royal Media Services Limited) and eventually KTN.
Mwenda Njoka, a spokesman for the Interior Ministry told the New York Times that
“there are good reasons why we did what we did”, adding that “the government had to do what it did because the lives of Kenyans are more important than what you call freedom of the press or what might turn out to be an inciting broadcast.”
In an unconfirmed letter addressed to Lancia Digital Broadcast, the operator of Bamba, seen by Hiiraan Online, the CA ordered Lancia to “remove KTN NEWS TV channel from your platform with immediate effect.”
The Swearing-in Ceremony is a culmination of a series of events that have shaken the usually stable East African country. Last year, Odinga lost in an August General Election to the incumbent, Uhuru Kenyatta. Odinga claimed that the vote was marred by electoral fraud and successfully petitioned the results to the Supreme Court. A subsequent re-election in late October was boycotted by Odinga and his NASA party, doubting that a second presidential election would be fair under the same circumstances, and Uhuru Kenyatta won in a landslide.
Odinga once again refused to accept the results and promised to swear himself in as the “People’s President” in a self-organized ceremony.