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XINHUA NEWS SERVICE REPORTS FROM THE AFRICAN CONTINENT

 

Kenya’s media shutdown enters second day  

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Kenya entered the second day of media crackdown on Wednesday after the government shut down three popular TV stations after they defied a directive not to air controversial swearing-in of opposition leader Raila Odinga on Tuesday.

KTN News, NTV and Citizen Television stations were shut down by the Communication Authority of Kenya early Tuesday morning minutes after they had started airing the event.

Kenyans had expected the stations would be back on air Tuesday evening after Odinga’s event, but over 24 hours later, none of the channels has been reinstated.

The government, on the other hand, has remained mum on the action, keeping the country guessing on what would happen next.

On Monday, hours to the opposition event, it emerged that the government had held a meeting with some media executives and warned them of closure if they air the ceremony.

The Kenya Editors Guild, however, protested the move noting that the country had competent media professionals who make decision on what is news and what is not.

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

Nation Media Group, which runs NTV, termed the crackdown on Wednesday “a deeply worrying sign of intolerance and autocratic tendency that has become too common since 2013.”

“This unilateral decision amounted to assault on the citizens’ right to know what is happening in their country. The freedom of the media is not a token privilege that the government of the day can give and take at will,” added the company in a statement.

The issue has generated great debate on social media, which has become the only platform where Kenyans can access information on what is happening in the country.

A majority of citizens sympathized with the media and faulted the government for the crackdown on the stations, but others supported the move.

“There is no justification as to why the media houses were shut and should remain off-air. There was no threat to security,” said Macharia Gaitho, a veteran journalist and political analyst.

He added that Kenyans owe the TV stations a debt and gratitude for having the courage to defy illegal State orders in airing the swearing-in.

“Kenya media must resist at all costs intimidation. Media freedom is an alienable right that cannot be abridged by the State,” he added.

Lawer Isaac Okero said the shutdown was a violation of the constitution as it interferes with the right to disseminate and receive information.

However, despite the shutdown, the three TV stations are continuing with their normal programming which they are streaming live online as they await their fate.

“Watch your favourite programmes online,” KTN News informed its viewers, same as Citizen and NTV.

The spokesperson for the Ministry of Interior, Mwenda Njoka, reportedly said the stations’ transmissions were cut due to “security concerns,” which he said, the government was not obliged to explain.

“There is no responsible government that would allow media to broadcast anything, more so live, which might incite people to violence. It would become an unmanageable situation,” said Njoka, adding that freedom of the press was not absolute.

             

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