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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

Kenyans turn to social media for Raila amid TV stations shutdown | Coastweek

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya National Supper Alliance (NASA) supporters are seen ahead of the planned "inauguration" of NASA leader Raila Odinga and Kalonzo Musyoka in Nairobi. Kenya’s main opposition party, National Super Alliance (NASA), on Tuesday "swore in" its leader Raila Odinga as "People’s President" amid jubilation from thousands of supporters who witnessed the ceremony at a public park in the capital of Nairobi. XINHUA PHOTOS - FRED MUTUNE

Kenyans turn to social media for Raila amid TV stations shutdown

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenyans on Tuesday relied on social media for updates on the swearing-in of opposition leader Raila Odinga as the People’s President in the capital of Nairobi after the government switched off mainstream TV stations.

Social media platforms that include Facebook, Twitter and YouTube became the only channels that anxious citizens could access the information on the event.

Odinga took oath as the people’s president, a move that the government had termed illegal.

Initially, there were fears of chaos due to confrontation between the police and opposition supporters after the government banned the event.

However, police officers who had been sent to man Uhuru Park, the venue of the ceremony, withdrew allowing thousands of opposition National Super Alliance (NASA) supporters to attend the fete.

But the government, through the Communication Authority of Kenya (CA), switched off several mainstream TV stations, plunging millions of people hungry for information into darkness.

The popular TV stations switched off included Citizen, NTV and KTN News.

Social media, therefore, became the only channel where the TV and citizens posted the happenings of oath-taking ceremony.

"Watch our live updates on our YouTube channels," announced NTV, Citizens and KTN News.

However, while the broadcasts ran for several minutes, the CA also switched off the channels leading to frustrations among audiences.

"I am trying to catch up with you on YouTube but I am being told the channel is not available, what is the problem?" Fred Oriko, a viewer, asked KTN News and Citizen.

The stations later turned to posting short video clips and pictures accompanied with write ups on both Facebook and Twitter to keep their audiences informed.

Among the information they passed was a telephone conversation of Odinga, the opposition leader, speaking from undisclosed location.

"Today is very historical day for the nation of Kenya.

"I would say the most important day since independence.

"We don’t recognize the Oct. 26 election because 80 percent of people did not show up.

"Our journey to Canaan is unstoppable," Odinga told supporters, assuring them that he would take oath, which he later did at about 3 p.m. local time.

Even as the media tried to circumvent the switch off, citizens too took it upon themselves to inform others of what was happening at Uhuru Park in the capital and other towns across the country as they shared messages and photos.

"The people have decided.

"No turning back.

"Today we have a new president," Twitted Abisai, a NASA supporter under the hashtag #NASAOathDay, with photos of Odinga taking oath at Uhuru Park.

"It is an oath.

"It is an oath.

"It is an oath," Dikembe, a NASA supporter, Tweeted the message accompanied with photos.

Jubilee supporters, similarly, used the internet to pass their messages in bid to play down the opposition event.

"The real president is in Addis Ababa with others before he jets back into the country in the afternoon," Tweeted Jubilee MP Ngunjiri Wambugu, mocking opposition supporters.

However, as internet remained abuzz with the event, there were fears that it could also be the next victim.

The government prior to last year’s Aug. 8 and Oct. 26 polls had severally warned that the internet would be shut down if it becomes a threat to national security.

"They shut down radios and TV, then YouTube.

"Next would be internet, send your messages now but how long can you deny people freedom?" noted Gabriel Dolan, a human rights activist.

Kenya, according to the Communication Authority, had 30.6 million internet subscriptions as at the quarter ending September, the majority of whom are on mobile phone. On the other hand, there were about 5 million TV subscriptions.

However, while internet subscriptions are higher, TV reaches millions of audiences because it is free, unlike mobile, where fewer people who own smart phones can live stream events.

"Yes, TV has a bigger audience but millions today followed the event on the internet because they had no any other choice.

"The media shutdown is certainly bad for democracy but internet usage today has hit a historical level.

"When the service providers would announce the figures, they would shock us," said Bernard Mwaso, a consultant with Edell IT Solution.

Tuesday’s shutdown of TV stations in Kenya is the second in about a decade, with the last seen in 2007 following a disputed election pitting Odinga and former President Mwai Kibaki.
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EARLIER REPORT:

Kenya switches off TV stations ahead of opposition swearing-in fete

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- The Kenyan government on Tuesday shut down four popular mainstream TV channels and several radio stations ahead of the planned swearing-in of Opposition leader Raila Odinga as the People’s President in the capital of Nairobi.

Odinga is to be sworn-in alongside his deputy Kalonzo Musyoka in a controversial ceremony, which the government had outlawed, terming the action treasonable.

Odinga and Musyoka have maintained that they won the August election, in which President Uhuru Kenyatta was declared the winner and his election nullified by the Supreme Court later. However, he was elected in a repeat poll on Oct. 26.

The shutting down of the stations followed a directive that had asked media houses not to televise the opposition event.

Nearly all the private mainstream media stations had started showing the event early Tuesday morning, an action that led to the shutdown.

Among those switched off by the Communication Commission of Kenya (CA) were NTV, KTN and Citizen televisions and a host of radio stations allied to the channels.

"We would like to confirm that this morning, the CA disconnected Citizen TV and Inooro TV transmission.

"There has been no official communication as to why this action was taken," said Wachira Waruru, the managing director of Royal Media Services, which owns Citizen TV.

"We are actively engaging the relevant government authorities to establish the reason for the action and we hope to resume normal transmission soon," added Waruru, as the stations and others turned to social media to update their audiences.

On Monday, it emerged President Uhuru Kenyatta and his deputy William Ruto had held a meeting with several media executives in which the government threatened to revoke licenses of the stations that would air the event.

Kenya Editors Guild called the action of shutting down the stations an affront to media freedom and noted that the media was not an actor in the ongoing contest between ruling party Jubilee and opposition National Super Alliance (NASA).

"The media remains a messenger and a chronicler of events happenings in the country, which has a vibrant industry made up of competent professional in journalists and editors that continue to make sound decisions of what constitutes news," said Linus Kaikai, chairman of the Kenya Editors Guild, in a statement on Monday evening.

Some analysts on Tuesday blamed the Kenyan media for the position it found itself in on Tuesday, noting that it had participated in the making of its plight.

"The problem with Kenya media is that it refused to enjoy the freedom it was given.

"It refused to occupy its own space as enshrined in the constitution, so it should not complain," said Professor Herman Manyora, a political analyst.

Henry Wandera, an economics lecturer in Nairobi, noted that the shutdown of the media showed the great lengths the government can go to deny people the right to information.

"The government has for a long time been warning the media to tore the line or face sanctions.

"We are seeing it happen today and the entire country is now in the dark yet a key event in the country’s history is happening.

"Even if deemed bad, the government should have allowed citizens to know what is happening and deal with any criminal act in accordance with the law," said Wandera.

Human Rights activists Ndung’u Wainaina termed the shutdown "deplorable, repugnant, appalling and showed how authoritarian Kenyatta’s government was."

Opinion was, however, divided among ordinary supporters of Jubilee and the opposition on the media shutdown. Jubilee adherents welcomed the move noting that allowing TV stations to air the ceremony amounted to incitement.

"It is the best thing to have happened to the country on Tuesday because the ceremony would have had a spiral effect and affected businesses in other parts of the nation," said Stephen Kariuki, a businessman.

Moses Omolo, a NASA follower, said media shutdown amounted to denial of basic human right.

"Information is as key as oxygen and water.

"The right to information is enshrined in the constitution and must be guaranteed.

"With or without media, we would go on with the ceremony as planned," he said.

The current stalemate between the government and the opposition is expected to prolong Kenya’s political crisis, which arose after the Aug. 8, 2017 polls.

             

 

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