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Top security organ ordered TV switch off

By Daniel Psirmoi | Published Wed, March 7th 2018 at 00:00, Updated March 6th 2018 at 23:46 GMT +3

The decision to shut down three television stations was made by the National Security Council chaired by President Uhuru Kenyatta.

The three - KTN News, NTV and Citizen TV - were switched off during Opposition leader Raila Odinga's 'swearing in' as 'people's president' on January 30.

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Appearing before a Senate committee on Tuesday, ICT Cabinet Secretary Joe Mucheru absolved himself from blame, saying he was not behind the shut-down.

Mr Mucheru told the Senate ICT committee that the decision to switch off broadcasting signals for the three  stations was reached by a team led by the President.

However, the CS declined to disclose who in the council had the final say on the switch-off, insisting that he had no authority to speak about the matter.

“The council took the decision because it was a security issue. I am not authorised to speak on its behalf. The matter is also still in court and I cannot speak about it,”  he told the committee.

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Attempts by committee chairman Gideon Moi (Baringo) and members Enock Wambua (Kitui), Samuel Poghisio (West Pokot) and Malachy Imana (Turkana) to get the CS to disclose who specifically issued the orders hit a brick wall.

“I will not answer the question on who ordered the shutdown because I am not the one who did it. At the same time, I am not authorised to discuss security matters in the glare of cameras,” said Mucheru. “When the National Security Council invokes their actions, it is not me to explain."

He told the senators that no law was broken with the switch-off order.

“We adhered to the Constitution and the laws of the land before switching off the TV stations; we switched them off to save lives,” he said.

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National security

The senators accused the CS of invoking national security to avoid divulging more information and vowed to take up the matter with the Senate Speaker.

“You are hiding behind the National Security Council. We will discuss this matter with the Speaker and see the next course of action,” said Gideon.

The senator said the team would forge ahead with its probe.

“We represent the interests of Kenyans and want to get to the bottom of the unfortunate and ugly incident. We do not want such a thing to occur again; it reflects badly on the State,” he said.