Okiya Omtata sues Communication Authority, Fred Matiang'i over TV switch-off

Kenya: The Supreme Court did not order the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) and the Information ministry to switch off the analogue signals of four television stations, civil rights activist Okiya Omtata has said.

Mr Omtata has filed a case seeking to have CA compelled to switch on the analogue signals of  KTN, NTV, Citizen and QTV.

He said majority of the set-top boxes being sold now comprised 90 per cent pay television stations and 10 per cent free to air channels. The activist said this has a huge implication in promoting universal access to information for the poor whose only access to TV has been through free-to-air channels.

“The CA discharged its mandate of midwifing the digital migration incompetently and in total violation of the Constitution to the extent that they did not consider the interests of the marginalised who cannot afford digital pay television,” he  said.

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The access to information, argued Omtata, was a pre-requisite for media freedom, adding that the freedom to impart information goes hand in hand with the freedom to receive the information.

He said CA should have considered the needs of millions of Kenyans who rely on free-to-air television instead of promoting pay television for what he termed as improper motive.

The activist submitted that Kenyans expected that after the Supreme Court ruling, the migration from analogue to digital broadcasting would be handled professionally, and in a manner that protects the interests of Kenyans and investors.

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International deadline

“The CA has demonstrated that the only effort required to switch off the analogue signal is to press a button. It is questionable why the regulator cannot allow the Africa Digital Network (a consortium of the Standard Group, Nation Media Group and Royal Media Services) the time they require between now and May and before the international deadline of July 17, 2015 for switch-off,” he submitted.

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The activist is also seeking to have the case certified as urgent and have all relevant parties joined in the the matter.

He said CA and the Information minister violated the National Information and Communications technology policy gazetted on March 31, 2006 which which advocates broadcasting services to be provided in public interest.

Omtata has sued CA, Information Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang'i, the CA Chairman and Director General, Principal Secretaries ministry of Information, Treasury and Interior and co-ordination, five members of CA board of directors and the Attorney General.

He said the switch-off is blatant disregard for the rule of law and the abuse of the rights of Kenyans.

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Okiya Omtata Fred Matiang'i Communication Authority digital migration