Media censorship casts worrying shadow over Kenya's democracy

In September, Kenya was praised by many after its Supreme Court -- citing irregularities -- nullified the re-election...

Posted: Feb 6, 2018 2:49 AM
Updated: Feb 6, 2018 2:49 AM

In September, Kenya was praised by many after its Supreme Court -- citing irregularities -- nullified the re-election of the country's sitting president. But nearly six months on it appears this applause from observers was premature.

As the Court ordered a fresh election for October, President Uhuru Kenyatta, bitterly disappointed by the judges' decision, declared with grace, "I don't agree with the decision, but I respect it." It was seen as an example of how Kenya's rule of law actually held sway.

But last year also produced a heavy body count (92 people died during the protracted election period and an election official was found murdered), the deputy Supreme Court judge's driver was shot at and injured, and several Supreme Court judges did not turn up to a hearing on postponement of the October polls.

Now, in a new year and with President Kenyatta firmly installed in office for his final term, the same observers -- both at home and abroad -- are alarmed by recent media censorship in the country.

When veteran opposition challenger Raila Odinga chose to stage his mock "swearing-in" on January 30, few had any idea that the mood in Nairobi would become one of toxic intolerance -- intolerance of the opposition, of the media and of the rule of law. As the "ceremony" unfolded, the government pulled the plug on four TV stations, switching off their signal remotely. On Monday, two of the channels partially returned.

"The government was and is aware of the role of some elements in the media fraternity who participated in furtherance of this illegal act," Interior Minister Fred Matiang'i said at the time. "Their complicity would have led to thousands of deaths of innocent Kenyans."

Broadcasters went into hiding, fearing arrest, or confined themselves to their offices as plainclothes policemen circled their headquarters.

Nerves over Odinga's symbolic protest had been frayed enough in government for a warning to be issued to local broadcasters the day before not to cover the event.

Larry Madowo was one of those journalists. "The Kenyan government's argument that the media covering the swearing-in was abetting an illegality flies in the face of reason," he told CNN. "We cover news, we cover history. Whether it is uncomfortable, whether it's unpopular with the government of the day or not there is no way we were going to have this mock swearing-in take place and not cover it."

And while local TV stations received the brunt of the government's ire, Nairobi is also home to the world's major news agencies and TV networks. They all covered this new chapter in Kenya's political drama.

When private citizen Okiya Omtatah took the government to the high court over the shutdown, the court demanded the stations be put back on air, pending a hearing on February 14.

Only two major broadcasters -- NTV and KTN -- are partially back on air almost a week after their signals were shut down by the government. The free-to-watch channels which were shut down are still not back on air.

Furthermore, the opposition claims their MPs and prominent voices are being arrested and held "incommunicado." The Kenyan government has so far declined to comment about the TV station shutdown despite numerous requests from CNN.

Nairobi's streets are also once again filling up with the choking whiff of teargas, as rights activists protest Kenyatta's overreaction to a ceremony that ought to have been simply ignored.

Instead, the world is talking about a regression of rights and press freedoms in Kenya.

West Lafayette
Clear
79° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 80°
Kokomo
Clear
75° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 75°
Rensselaer
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 73°
Fowler
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 73°
Williamsport
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 80° Lo: 56°
Feels Like: 79°
Crawfordsville
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 57°
Feels Like: 73°
Frankfort
Clear
71° wxIcon
Hi: 79° Lo: 55°
Feels Like: 71°
Delphi
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 78°
Monticello
Clear
77° wxIcon
Hi: 81° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 78°
Logansport
Clear
73° wxIcon
Hi: 78° Lo: 52°
Feels Like: 73°
Hotter & turning much more humid for the weekend.
WLFI Radar
WLFI Temps
WLFI Planner

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 71015

Reported Deaths: 3013
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion15322723
Lake7343274
Elkhart471380
Allen3725160
St. Joseph330179
Hamilton2610104
Vanderburgh184213
Hendricks1814106
Cass17669
Johnson1694118
Porter123839
Clark114846
Tippecanoe114611
Madison89565
LaPorte86930
Howard85565
Kosciusko82712
Marshall75822
Bartholomew75447
Floyd74045
Monroe70830
Delaware68052
Dubois65812
Boone65346
Noble64529
Hancock63838
Jackson5625
LaGrange55410
Warrick55330
Vigo54310
Shelby53527
Grant52029
Dearborn47928
Morgan45134
Clinton4043
Henry36919
White35110
Montgomery34621
Wayne34610
Lawrence33727
Decatur32432
Harrison30923
Putnam2778
Miami2642
Daviess25920
Scott25710
Greene24134
Franklin23413
DeKalb2234
Jasper2192
Jennings21512
Gibson2084
Steuben2043
Ripley1947
Perry17912
Fayette1777
Starke1747
Orange16624
Posey1650
Wabash1613
Fulton1592
Carroll1572
Wells1542
Jefferson1532
Whitley1476
Knox1420
Tipton1296
Huntington1213
Washington1211
Spencer1193
Newton11410
Randolph1144
Clay1045
Sullivan911
Adams892
Jay840
Owen831
Pulaski751
Brown711
Rush714
Fountain642
Benton600
Blackford592
Ohio574
Pike520
Parke501
Vermillion480
Crawford440
Switzerland440
Martin420
Union350
Warren201
Unassigned0202

COVID-19 Important links and resources

As the spread of COVID-19, or as it's more commonly known as the coronavirus continues, this page will serve as your one-stop for the resources you need to stay informed and to keep you and your family safe. CLICK HERE

Closings related to the prevention of the COVID-19 can be found on our Closings page.

Community Events