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‘Chicken’ protest over TV switch-off as civil society asks President Uhuru Kenyatta to tame runaway corruption

By Faith Ronoh | February 28th 2015

Chicken, old television sets and placards characterised protests by outraged Civil Society activists opposing TV switch off outside Communications Authority of Kenya (CAK) offices in Nairobi.

The activists, yesterday called on President Uhuru Kenyatta to act in national interest and switch on the stations adding that 90 per cent of Kenyans who cannot afford set-top boxes have been given a raw deal.

Under the umbrella of National Civil Society Congress (NCSC), the protestors were quick to castigate CAK Director Francis Wangusi and Information and Technology Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i for the stalemate.

“We are not opposed to digital migration but our concern is the fact that relevant government authorities are not concerned about the interests of 90 per cent of Kenyans who cannot afford set-top boxes. President Uhuru Kenyatta must now ignore Matiang’i and Wangusi who are clearly misleading him and act immediately to salvage the situation,” said John Wamagata, National Coordinator, Operation Ondoa Panya.

Wamagata said Kenyans are being migrated to pay TV instead of digital TV, adding that failure by the Government to give the three media houses (Standard Group, Nation Media Group and Royal Media Services) time to import their set-top boxes raises questions on the legitimacy of the migration.

The chicken, he said, symbolised runaway corruption in various Government agencies. He urged the Government to “come clean” on the owners of Chinese firms licensed to distribute digital signals.

“Who are the owners of these Chinese firms?” posed Wamagata. “There is a huge probability that the owners are actually Kenyans yet nobody is giving us a proper explanation.”

The activists extended blame on the leading opposition, CORD, saying they have failed in championing the interests of Kenyans who have now been left in the dark following the switch off.

“Instead of fighting for Kenyans and asking the Government to give the three media houses time to migrate, the opposition are busy fighting for one person in Parliament. This is unfortunate,” Wamagata said.

The activists who dumped the old TV sets outside CAK offices after the demonstration, vowed to hold separate protests on Friday next week where they will march to Matiangi’s office.

The morning protest lasted for close to five hours amid tight security.

The Senate this week gave Wangusi and Matiang’i seven days to produce documents regarding the ownership of PANG after claims that the Chinese firm has a local shareholding of up to 30 per cent.

Media owners have reiterated that they are not opposed to the migration but needed time to import their set-top boxes. But in what appears to be a push and pull between authorities, CAK maintains that going back to analogue is not an option.

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