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High Court orders government to restore media transmissions

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya’s High Court on Thursday directed the country’s communications industry regulator to allow four privately-owned television stations to resume broadcasting.

High Court Judge Chacha Mwita ordered Communications Authority on Kenya (CA) to restore transmission of KTN, NTV, Citizen and Inooro stations which were shut down by the government on Tuesday.

Mwita also barred the government from interfering with the signals or operations of the four media houses until a case filed by civil society activist Okiya Omtatah is heard and determined on Feb. 14.

Omtatah wanted the court to compel relevant authorities to fully restore transmission with immediate effect, noting that the state must be stopped from ignoring the rule of law which is a key national value and principle of governance.

“The respondent’s action violates the prohibition in article 34(2) which bars the state from exercising control over or interfering with any person engaged in broadcasting, the production or circulation of any publication,” read the court document.

He also wanted orders from the court to bar the state from further interference with all the television transmissions of the four media houses.

Omtatah said the public’s right to information under article 35 of the Constitution is directly affected since the switch-off has curtailed the public right of access to information broadcast by the media houses.

In his ruling, Mwita said the conservatory orders will remain until the matter is heard and determined on Feb. 14. He certified the case as urgent.

The government shut down the television stations hours before National Super Alliance (NASA) leader Raila Odinga’s defiant inauguration on Tuesday.

Kenyans had expected the stations would be back on air Tuesday evening after Odinga’s event, but over 48 hours later, none of the channels has been reinstated.

There are fears that the government may have revoked the licenses of the popular TV stations to punish them for going against its directive.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i later claimed the coalition had planned a massacre and that some media houses were aware. He launched investigations into the inauguration which he said will extend to conspirators and facilitators the event.

Upon completion of these investigations, appropriate legal action will be taken in accordance with the laws of Kenya. The government will prefer appropriate administrative measures on a need by need basis, Matiang’i said on Wednesday.

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