The Kenya High Court has ordered the authorities to temporarily allow three TVs, closed for having defied the ban on retransmitting the “investiture” of the opponent Raila Odinga, to temporarily resume their broadcasts.
Judge Chacha Mwita ordered a two-week stay, in order to consider the request of an activist, Okiya Omtatah Okoiti, that the ban is “extremely arbitrary, disproportionate, repressive and unreasonable”.
The private channels Citizen TV, NTV and KTN News were closed on Tuesday morning as they broadcast the rally of opponents for Odinga’s swearing-in as “president of the people”.
They defied the order of Kenyan President Uhuru Kenyatta himself, who summoned the media bosses last Friday and “expressly threatened to close” any media that would broadcast the ceremony, according to a statement from the Kenya Publishers Guild. .
While the authorities had authorized the “investiture” ceremony to continue, Interior Minister Fred Matiang’i warned Wednesday that the investigation was underway, raising fears and rumors of impending arrests.
Opposition MP and lawyer TJ Kajwang, who oversaw the inauguration ceremony, was arrested Wednesday afternoon by police over the event held in a park in central Nairobi, and police dispersed his supporters with tear gas, before his scheduled court appearance Thursday.
Plainclothes and armed police were present Wednesday night outside the headquarters of Nation Media Group, which owns NTV television, said a Nation reporter, Linus Kaikai. Informed by police sources that they would be arrested if they left the scene, Mr. Kaikai and two of his colleagues spent the night there.
“This is a very sad moment for press freedom in this country,” said Tom Mshindi, editor-in-chief at Nation Media Group.
Kenya’s Media Council said Wednesday was “shocked by the recent turn of events.” “A political fight has turned into the biggest threat and attacked freedom of expression and the media in Kenya’s recent history,” he said in a statement.