Kenya court suspends govt’s media shutdown

Kenya court

Kenya’s High Court has suspended the shutdown of three independent television stations, which were blocked earlier this week after they had planned to broadcast a contentious, symbolic “swearing in” ceremony for opposition leader Raila Odinga.

The country’s High Court ordered a 14-day suspension of the government’s shutdown — which affected stations NTV, Citizen and KTN TV — while a legal challenge can be heard, NTV said on Thursday.

“Government expected to restore NTV, Citizen TV & KTN News signals after High Court suspends switch off for 14 days pending case being heard,” the station wrote on Twitter.

The stations remained off the air on Thursday evening.

The shutdown came amid heightened tension in Kenya this week, as Odinga — who says last year’s presidential elections were rigged — declared himself the “people’s president”.

The opposition leader took an unofficial oath on Tuesday in a ceremony at Nairobi’s Uhuru Park.

The event took place three months after he boycotted a presidential election rerun.

The Kenyan interior ministry justified shutting down the stations because it said broadcasting the ceremony amounted to a “serious breach of security”.

The government also described the event as a “well-choreographed attempt to subvert or overthrow” President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Speaking to reporters on Thursday, Tom Mshindi, editor-in-chief of Kenya’s Nation Media Group, described the shutdown as “a sad moment for media freedom” in the country.

“We must stand very firm together because if we don’t . . . we will perish, we will go back to the days [that] we don’t want to even remember,” Mshindi said.

Meanwhile, the US on Thursday rejected Kenyan opposition leader Odinga’s “inauguration” as “people’s president”, while also criticising the authorities’ crackdown on several broadcasters that tried to cover it live.

Odinga held the swearing-in ceremony in Nairobi earlier this week with thousands of supporters in attendance, another challenge to President Uhuru Kenyatta’s re-election last year following two votes that the opposition claims were rigged.

Three of the country’s main private television channels had their live feeds of the event cut or blocked, but the country’s High Court allowed them to temporarily resume service on Thursday.

“The United States is gravely concerned by Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga’s ‘self-inauguration’ on January 30,” US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert said in a statement.

“Grievances must be resolved through appropriate legal mechanisms,” said Nauert, who also criticised “the government’s action to shut down, intimidate, and restrict the media”.

Odinga, a veteran opposition leader, has refused to accept Kenyatta’s re-election, which came after a deeply-divisive 2017 polls season in which rights activists say at least 92 people were killed.

The first election was held on August 8, was won by Kenyatta and then annulled in a historic decision by the Supreme Court, which ordered a re-run on October 26.

Claiming the poll would not be fair, Odinga boycotted the second vote and Kenyatta won with 98 percent.

Kenyan police yesterday arrested an outspoken member of the opposition, Miguna Miguna, in a dawn raid on his Nairobi home, police and his party said.

Armed officers used explosives to break down the door before arresting Miguna, a witness said.

“There were several blasts heard at his home before he was finally taken out,” said a neighbour who did not want to be named.

Miguna is a provocative firebrand who attended the Tuesday mock swearing-in of opposition leader Raila Odinga as the “people’s president”, in defiance of last year’s election that saw Uhuru Kenyatta win a second term.

On Thursday he goaded police, daring them to arrest him saying he had signed Odinga’s oath, “So if you want to take me to court for doing my job, come baby come!”

He also urged supporters to “take down portraits of illegitimate president Kenyatta” and burn them.

Miguna’s arrest follows that of TJ Kajwang, a lawyer and MP who was arrested on Wednesday and is due to be charged with treason and unlawful assembly.

Both men played prominent roles in the mock swearing-in, flanking Odinga as he took an oath while clutching a Bible, Miguna is his trademark kufi cap and Kajwang in a judge’s robe and wig.

Their presence was particularly important given the absence of all three of Odinga’s partners in the National Super Alliance (NASA) coalition.

While Miguna lost in his bid to become governor of Nairobi last year and holds no official position within NASA, he is the self-styled “general” of the party’s “National Resistance Movement” wing which is tasked with implementing a threatened programme of civil disobedience and boycotts.

Following Odinga’s pretend inauguration Kenya’s government designated the NRM as an “organised criminal group”.

Yesterday’s arrest is the latest twist in the long saga of Kenya’s disputed elections which saw the Supreme Court annul the result of the initial August poll and Odinga boycott the October rerun.

Odinga insists he is the real winner and therefore the legitimate president of Kenya. — AFP

Article Source: The Chronicle

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