Kenya TV stations shutdown enters 5th day as government defies court order

Kenya TV stations shutdown enters 5th day as government defies court order
Ben Curtis/AP
Opposition leader Raila Odinga holds a Bible aloft after swearing an oath during a mock inauguration ceremony at Uhuru Park in downtown Nairobi on Tuesday.

The Kenyan government continued to defy a court order to put four private television stations back on the air, escalating political tensions as the media blackout enters a fifth day Saturday.

Government officials shut down CitizenTV, InooroTV, KTN and NTV, during a live broadcast of an opposition gathering in the capital of Nairobi on Tuesday.

The stations had ignored the government’s warnings not to cover the rally in which opposition leader Rail Odinga inaugurated himself as “the people’s president” — even though he boycotted last November’s elections that saw Kenyatta win with 98% of the vote.

Such media censorship has not been not seen in Kenya for years, although the channels continued to stream online.

A court ordered the government Thursday to restore all transmissions immediately pending a February 14 court hearing challenging the government’s media blackout.

Before the ruling, the Interior Ministry had said the networks would remain dark while authorities investigate the “serious breach of security” after the stations aired footage of crowds gathering for the event.

“Though the government has indicated that the stations are under investigations, they do not have to be off-air for investigations to go on,” said Senator Gideon Moi, chair of the Senate committee on Information and Communication Technology.

“What is happening now is contrary to the law of natural justice where one remains innocent until proven guilty.”

The US State Department expressed concerns on both the “inauguration” and the media shutdown. It reiterated that Uhuru Kenyatta was elected president, and urged both parties to resolve their issues in court.

The European Union echoed the same sentiment, and asked the dueling sides to maintain calm. Rupert Colville of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the government to implement the judicial decision.