Kenyan court blocks TV shutdown over Odinga ‘inauguration’

Kenya’s High Court suspended a government order to shut down three of the largest private television stations in the country over opposition leader Raila Odinga’s unofficial inauguration broadcast.

The leader of the opposition coalition National Super Alliance, Raila Odinga, looks on during a news conference at a hotel in Nairobi, Kenya. File photo by Daniel Irungu/EPA
The leader of the opposition coalition National Super Alliance, Raila Odinga, looks on during a news conference at a hotel in Nairobi, Kenya. File photo by Daniel Irungu/EPA

Earlier this week, Kenyan government officials directed the shutdown of NTV, Citizen TV and KTN after they planned to broadcast the swearing-in ceremony of Odinga.

The stations combined reached two-thirds of Kenya’s television audience.

Odinga, a National Super Alliance, or NASA, candidate who lost Kenya’s presidential election last year, held the unofficial inauguration as a publicity stunt for his supporters. However, authorities called the move an act of treason against Kenya’s President Uhuru Kenyatta.

High Court Judge Chacha Mwita ordered the Communications Authority of Kenya to restore live transmission of the three suspended channels and also banned the government from interfering with TV stations.

Mwita said the orders will remain in place until the case is heard and determined on Feb. 14.

The ruling comes after human rights activist Okiya Omtatah petitioned the court to overturn the government decision, saying the move was unconstitutional.

Omtatah said the government was violating Article 33 and 34 of Kenya’s Constitution, which guarantees media freedom and information access.

On Wednesday, Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i released a statement saying the television shutdown would continue as the stations were warned to not broadcast the swearing-in ceremony.

“Media owners and all relevant actors had been given a full security situation brief well ahead of the illegal activities of NASA. Unfortunately, some media houses chose to disregard this advice, their own code of ethics, self- regulations and moral responsibility to every Kenyan to safeguard security of their fellow citizens,” Omtatah said.

By Sara Shayanian