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United Nation's message to government as media shutdown enters day five
By Wambui Mbuthia | Updated Feb 04, 2018 at 12:54 EAT
Media personnel covering a past event [COURTESY]
  • The world continues to wonder what next after media shutdown enters day six in Kenya
  • The UN has asked the government to honour a high court order and respect media freedom
  • the UN's remarks echo those of other bodies in the world

The United Nations is the latest joiner in the call for the government to respect the High Court’s order and restore signals of TV stations, which have been off the air since Tuesday, January 30. The UN added its voice to international calls made earlier by the United States and European Union on Thursday where they urged the government to respect freedom of the press.

Standard Group‘s KTN News, Nation Media Group’s NTV and Citizen TV and the Kikuyu-language Inooro TV of Royal Media Services went off the air on for allegedly defying government warnings and broadcasting live from the venue of the contentious “swearing-in” of National Super Alliance (NASA) Coalition leader Raila Odinga. Viewers of the affected channels can only access them via live stream on Youtube.

Interior cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i ominously accused the media of being party to alleged subversion aimed at the violent overthrow of the Jubilee government and said the TV blockade will remain indefinitely.

Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i on January 31, 2018

Activist Okiya Omtatah filed a lawsuit that secured the temporary order for restoration of the airwaves but the government has maintained its ground.

This situation has caught the attention of global media advocacy and civil rights groups who feel that Kenya, known as a beacon of freedom in the region is becoming increasingly intolerant and presenting the spectre of a creeping dictatorship. 

The UN on Friday called upon the government to restore the stations.“We are also concerned at the government’s attempts to interfere with the rights to freedom of expression by reportedly warning that participation in the Raila Odinga inauguration ceremony would lead to revocation of licenses,” the UN rights agency tweeted.

We call on the #Kenya govt to allow 3 TV stations to resume transmission. They remain suspended for a 3rd day after Govt accused them of “complicity” for airing footage of opposition leader Raila Odinga’s “inauguration ceremony” https://t.co/zfgcgUEVwZ

— UN Human Rights (@UNHumanRights) February 2, 2018

The media shutdown now in its sixth day has received criticism even from inside Kenya’s border with leaders split between supporting the government or the media. Baringo Senator Gideon Moi who is also the chairman of the Senate Committee on Information and Communication Technology on Friday said that media freedom is enshrined in the Constitution, which State swore to abide by and protect.

“Though the government has indicated that the stations are under investigations, they do not have to be off-air for investigations to go on. Let them switch them on as investigations are done and if it turns out that they are culpable, action be taken at that point,” said the Senator.

Central Organisation of Trade Unions (COTU) Secretary General Francis Atwoli said Jubilee had embraced dictatorship and questioned why the government had defied a court order suspending the Communication Authority (CA) of Kenya decision to get the three channels off air.

“Denying the people their freedom to access information and the media the freedom to disseminate information is a dictatorship because these are vital rights,” he said during the burial of human rights activist Ken Wafula in Likuyani, Kakamega County.

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