Kenya court suspends government’s media shutdown

Court suspends shutdown of TV stations that were blocked after promising to show Raila Odinga’s symbolic inauguration.

Odinga "swearing in"
The shutdown took place before a rally by opposition leader Raila Odinga [Baz Ratner/Reuters]

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 Thursday evening, however, the Associated Press reported.

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.

Source: Al Jazeera