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Kenya government allows 2 TV stations to resume broadcasting

Kenya civil rights groups protest on the streets of Nairobi holding placards against the government closure of the three main TV stations in Nairobi, Kenya Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. (Khalil Senosi / Associated Press)
Kenya civil rights groups protest on the streets of Nairobi holding placards against the government closure of the three main TV stations in Nairobi, Kenya Monday, Feb. 5, 2018. (Khalil Senosi / Associated Press)
By Tom Odula Associated Press

NAIROBI, Kenya – Kenya’s government Monday restored transmission to two major TV stations of the four it shut down seven days ago, as police fired tear gas on protesters demonstrating against President Uhuru Kenyatta’s government for violating constitutional freedoms.

“We are back on air,” said Joe Ageyo, the managing editor of Kenya Television Network. Transmission was also restored to Nation Television News, said its managing director Linus Kaikai, who said the two broadcasters had been in talks with the government. Service has not been restored to Citizen TV and the vernacular language service Inooro TV, said Kaikia, who is also the chairman of the Kenya Editors Guild.

Also Monday police fired tear gas at a peaceful demonstration of about 100 protesters expressing outrage against the government’s “blatant violation of the constitution,” said rights activist Njonjo Mue.

The government had shut down transmission of the four popular TV channels last week when they attempted to broadcast the mock inauguration of opposition leader Raila Odinga as the “people’s president.” Odinga charges that President Uhuru Kenyatta is not legitimate because he won elections last year through fraud.

The government ignored court orders to restore the remaining two stations’ transmission and to release opposition activist Miguna Miguna. Miguna was arrested after standing beside Odinga during the protest inauguration and signing the document as a witness.

Odinga’s fake inauguration last week was attended by tens of thousands of opposition supporters in the capital, Nairobi.

The government responded to Odinga’s event by declaring his opposition movement a criminal organization and investigating “conspirators” in the ceremony. An opposition lawmaker who stood beside Odinga and wore judicial robe was arrested Wednesday and taken to court, where police fired tear gas at his supporters. It was not clear what charges were pressed against the lawmaker, T.J. Kajwang, but he has been released on bail.

A well-known TV news anchor said last week that he and two other journalists were forced to spend the night in their newsroom to avoid arrest. Larry Madowo, a news anchor with Nation Television, said multiple sources informed him and colleagues that undercover policemen were waiting in the parking lot outside their offices. He said the journalists decided to spend the night in the newsroom to avoid meeting the police.

Kenya’s Supreme Court nullified Kenyatta’s election in August after Odinga claimed that hackers infiltrated the electoral commission’s computer system and changed results in favor of Kenyatta. The ruling, citing irregularities and illegalities, was the first time a court had overturned a presidential election in Africa. The court ordered a fresh election in October that Kenyatta won after Odinga boycotted, claiming a lack of electoral reforms.

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