The Kenyan government has ordered the closure of three of Kenya’s biggest TV stations and they will remain off-air until further notice because they had planned to broadcast the Ralia Odinga‘s unofficial “inauguration” in Nairobi.
Interior Minister Fred Matiang’i told reporters they would stay closed until investigations were complete.
Immediately after he spoke, an arrest warrant was placed on opposition MP Tom Kajwang and he was arrested.
Mr Kajwang played a prominent role in Tuesday’s ceremony naming Raila Odinga as “the people’s president”. The outspoken MP had donned a lawyer’s robe and wig, to the amusement of thousands of cheering opposition supporters in Uhuru park, in the capital Nairobi.
It is unclear what charges he will face.
The Interior Ministry said in a statement that was circulated on social media that broadcasting the eventacross Kenya, which was described as an attempt to “subvert or overthrow” the government, would have led to the deaths of thousands of innocent Kenyans”
Consequently NTV, KTN and Citizen TV were taken off-air at around 09:10 (06:10 GMT) on Tuesday.
Kenyan journalists denounced the move as outrageous and in a statement called for “respect of the constitution” and an end to the “unprecedented intimidation of journalists”.
The regulatory body, the Media Council of Kenya, described the recent turn of events as “the greatest threat and assault on freedom of expression and media in Kenya’s recent history”, saying there was no need to keep the media houses closed while an investigation was ongoing.
The organisation said in a Facebook post.
“This shutdown erodes the gains so far made in developing a free and responsible media industry and should never happen in a robust democracy that Kenya boasts of. As guaranteed by the Kenyan Constitution, media freedom should be guarded jealously at all times.”
The Interior Ministry however said it was a “serious breach of security”.
In his statement to reporters, he said:
“As a result of what happened yesterday, we have commenced investigations targeting individuals. Media houses in Kenya will remain closed until we complete investigations.”