January 31, 2018 / 11:47 AM / 6 months ago

Kenyan stations remain shut down after airing opposition coverage

NAIROBI, Jan 31 (Reuters) - Three Kenyan television and radio stations remained off the air on Wednesday and said they had not heard from authorities, a day after they were shut down while airing coverage of an opposition gathering in Nairobi.

By Wednesday afternoon, independently-owned Citizen TV and Radio, KTN and NTV were still trying to find out from Kenyan authorities when the shutdown would end.

“There was no comment from the government when the action was taken, and there’s been none since,” said Wachira Waruru, managing director of Royal Media Services, which owns Citizen TV and Radio.

The stations were shut down while airing live feeds from a Nairobi park where supporters of opposition leader Raila Odinga gathered to watch him take a symbolic presidential oath - a direct challenge to President Uhuru Kenyatta.

Attempts by Reuters to reach Kenya’s Communciations Authority for comment by telephone on Wednesday were unsuccessful.

“We’re trying to reach out informally to government officials but we are not getting any answers,” Waruru said. “Our business is advertising-based so we are making huge losses,” he said, declining to give a figure.

The stations are considering filing a petition to the Kenyan courts in the hope of having their broadcasts restored by court order, he said. “We are trying to resolve through dialogue but if it doesn’t work we will go to the courts,” he said.

Representatives of KTN and NTV were not immediately reachable, but neither was broadcasting on free-to-air or cable transmission on Wednesday afternoon.

“It’s shocking that the stations are still shut down,” said Isaac Okero, president of the Law Society of Kenya.

“This sets a very worrying tone for the country and really reveals to us that the state’s supposed commitment to constitutional order is very brittle if there at all.”

On Tuesday security forces made no move to stop an opposition gathering in downtown Nairobi attended by more than 15,000 people which authorities had said would be illegal.

But the government later declared the opposition “National Resistance Movement” a criminal group, paving the way for potential arrests.

On Monday, Linus Kaikai, chairman of the Kenya Editors’ Guild, said editors had been warned by authorities that they could be shut down if they covered the event. (Reporting by Maggie Fick; Editing by Richard Balmforth)

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