Officials from Kenya’s broadcast regulator the Communications Authority, have shut down four privately owned TV stations in the country.
The action took place during live coverage of an opposition party event in which Kenya’s opposition leader, Raila Odinga, declared himself president.
The Four TV stations are Citizen TV and Inooro TV, owned by the Royal Media Services, Nation Media Group’s , and the Standard Group’s KTN News.
President Uhuru Kenyatta last week threatened to shut down and revoke licenses, if they broadcast live, an event protesting the disputed elections last year.
Joseph Odindo, editorial director of the Standard Group, said the government gave no indication of how long the shutdown order would remain in effect.
In apparent defiance, some of the stations have continued streaming their content online, according to Odindo, Wachira Waruru, managing director of Royal Media Services, and Linus Kaikai, of Nation Media broadcast division.
The state media regulator, the Communications Authority of Kenya, in a letter to Lancia Digital Broadcast, which owns the signal distribution platform used by KTN News, cited the station’s “defiance” of a government “ban on live coverage of the events” related to the opposition “swearing in,” as reason for the cut in transmission,
According to a report by privately owned newspaper The Star, the letter was delivered about an hour after KTN News was shut down.
The Communications Authority’s acting director general, Christopher Kemei, confirmed issuing the letter after Lancia asked for an explanation for the shutdown.
An Interior Ministry spokesperson, Mwenda Njoka, said that the stations’ transmissions were cut due to security concerns, but said the government was not obliged to explain.
“There is no responsible government that would allow media to broadcast anything, more so live, which might incite people to violence. It would become an unmanageable situation,” said Njoka, adding that freedom of the press was not absolute.
The government in November last year warned the broadcast media not to provide live coverage of events by Odinga’s National Super Alliance political group.
Odinga challenged the results of Kenya’s presidential elections in August 2017 elections. His political coalition boycotted a repeat election, ordered by Kenya’s courts, in October 2017, and instead said it would establish a “people’s assembly” to carry out protests and boycotts while seeking changes to the constitution, according to reports.
Kenya has experienced unrest and violence in previous elections. Violence after a disputed result in 2007 left about 1,400 people dead, according to news reports.