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UN, US slam Kenya after TV stations shuttered

February 2, 2018

The UN on Friday followed the United States in criticising the Kenyan government after it took three major TV channels off the air despite a court order to end the suspensions.

“We call on the government to respect and implement the judicial decision,” said Rupert Colville, spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

He said he was “concerned that three TV stations remain suspended… in spite of an interim order by a Kenyan High Court”.

The United States earlier issued a statement saying it was “deeply concerned by the government’s action to shut down, intimidate, and restrict the media”.

On Tuesday, KTN News, NTV, and Citizen TV were blocked from broadcasting the “swearing-in” of opposition leader, Raila Odinga, in a mock presidential inauguration.

The interior minister condemned the move as an effort to “overthrow” the government of President Uhuru Kenyatta, who won re-election last year in a re-run vote boycotted by Odinga.

The opposition claimed the election process was rigged and the result illegitimate.

Following a petition filed by a civil society group on Thursday, a High Court judge ordered the TV shutdown suspended while the case is heard.

US State Department spokesperson Heather Nauert also criticised Odinga’s actions, saying the US was “gravely concerned by Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga’s self-‘inauguration'”.

The African Union slammed Odinga for undermining the “constitutional order and the rule of law” but made no mention of government attacks on press freedom.

The “swearing-in” by Odinga has alienated him from the international community, with Western diplomats saying they were not in contact with him.

International calls for dialogue between the two sides have for months been ignored by both the government and opposition.

Two opposition figures, who took prominent roles in the “swearing-in” ceremony have also been arrested.

Miguna Miguna was seized by police in a dawn raid at his house on Friday, while TJ Kajwang was arrested on Wednesday.

Both are expected to be charged with treason and unlawful assembly.

Dispatches from AFP concerning freedom of information, censorship and news coverage in regions where independent media is under threat.