Mucheru courts trouble with Senate in TVs shutdown probe

ICT CS Joe Mucheru when he appeared before the National Assembly ICT Committee at Parliament on Friday 23/02/18 on the budget and media Shutdown. [Photo by Boniface Okendo/Standard]
Information Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru is on a collision path with senators after he twice snubbed invitations to appear before a committee investigating the controversial switch-off of four TV stations during the ‘swearing-in’ of Raila Odinga.

The decision by Mr Mucheru to give senators a wide berth on Thursday, and appear before a National Assembly committee on Friday, is being viewed as a show of contempt to the House.

“Clearly the CS lied to us. He showed us contempt and disrespect and certainly he has started off very badly,” said Kitui Senator Enoch Wambua, a member of the committee.

He also claimed that while in the first invitation Mucheru had argued that he was unable to attend as he was to attend a Cabinet meeting, they had established that this was a lie.

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The Kitui Senator said the CS was also not truthful when he ignored the second invitation, saying he would be out of the country, only to appear before the National Assembly committee.

“As the organ that oversights him, particularly some of us who are passionate on media freedom, we will not allow him to be casual and contemptuous in the manner he responds to such serious questions as shutting down of TV stations.

“He can be sure that Kenyans have not seen the last of this. Media freedom did not come to journalists on a silver platter, it came at the cost of lives, blood was shed for this, and he cannot treat the matter casually,” said Mr Wambua.

After failing to show up before the Senate committee on Thursday last week, the CS wrote to the Clerk of the Senate Jeremiah Nyegenye saying due to work engagements, he would be available from February 26.

“Failure to appear before the Senate Committee on ICT was due to my unforeseen exigencies of duty. I regret the apprehension that the communication on my unavailability elicited within the committee,” the letter read in part.

Before the Senate committee decided to give him the last chance to appear on March 6, it had taken the committee Vice Chair Abshiro Halake (nominated senator), who was chairing the session in the absence of the substantive Chairman Gideon Moi (Baringo) to cool the senators tempers, as some demanded that summons be issued to the CS.   “The CS is just contemptuous. Did he just realise Thursday is a Cabinet day?” posed an infuriated Turkana Senator Malachy Ekal.

Wambua feels that Mucheru should have promptly turned up before the National Assembly and Senate committees to explain the reasons for the shutdown.

For the sake

When he appeared before the National Assembly committee, Mucheru said the shutdown of KTN News, Citizen TV, NTV and Inooro TV was sanctioned by the National Security Council, in the interest of national security, terming criticism of the ICT Ministry and the Communication Authority misdirected.

 “The stations are not shut down just for the sake of it. This was a decision that was taken by the National Security Council and should be addressed by them,” he added, as a section of legislators protested that there was no sufficient ground for the State to deny over 70 per cent of Kenyans, who rely on the stations for news, their right to information.

The CS promised to divulge the security threats posed by the affected stations in a closed-door session.

But Uriri MP Mark Nyamita took the CS to task, saying it was apparent that the State was keen on gagging the media and dictating the content disseminated. Mucheru said the Government had no intention of arresting, summoning editors or interfering with the content the media wishes to propagate.

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