Kenya Court suspends ban on 3 TV Stations over Odinga ‘inauguration’
Kenya’s High Court has cancelled the government’s closure of three of the country’s largest private TV channels.
Citizen TV, KTN, NTV were shutdown folowing their plans to broadcast opposition leader Raila Odinga’s mock “inauguration” on Tuesday.
The court has suspended the ban for 14 days while the case is heard.
However, it is not clear that the government will comply with order as currently the stations remain off-air and there is no sign the government will comply.
Odinga backed out of last year’s election following perceived government manipulation of the electoral umpire. Winner of the election, Uhuru Kenyatta has been sworn in and Odinga’s swearing-in was widely seen as a publicity stunt, but the authorities said it was an act of treason.
The High Court also ordered the state not to interfere with the operation of KTN, NTV, and Citizen TV pending a full hearing.
Reports say Kenyans have been angry at their inability to watch news and their favourite programmes for three days, and will welcome the court’s decision.
The affected media companies have suffered losses measured in the millions of dollars. The TV stations depend on advertising, so they could not make money during the period they have been off-air.
Human rights activist Okiya Omtatah, who petitioned the court, asked the government to pay for the financial losses that Citizen TV, KTN and NTV have incurred.
The stations command nearly two-thirds of Kenya’s TV audience. But the emergence of alternate advertising platforms, including social media, was already hurting their revenue streams. The three companies have been forced to lay off hundreds of workers in the past year to balance their books.
The Kenyan government had wanted the stations to remain shut indefinitely as police investigated Tuesday’s ceremony.
President Uhuru Kenyatta was sworn in for a second term last November after winning an election re-run in October that Mr Odinga boycotted.
Mr Kenyatta’s initial victory was overturned by the Supreme Court, which cited “irregularities and illegalities”.
The inauguration event in Nairobi’s Uhuru park on Tuesday was attended by thousands of Odinga supporters, and passed off peacefully.