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Case on free-to-air TV to be heard Friday

TVNAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 19 – A case lodged by human rights activist Okiya Omtatah seeking temporary orders to compel the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) to restore free-to-air TV broadcasts has been certified as urgent by the High Court.

Justice Weldon Korir directed the case to be heard inter-parties Friday when the Communications Authority and the for Information, Communication and Technology Cabinet Secretary will respond.

Omtatah says the matter is of weighty national importance and ought to be disposed of within 14 days.

The activist has filed the case on grounds that the Supreme Court never ordered the respondents to terminate free-to-air services which many Kenyan masses depend exclusively for their TV viewership.

By implementing the orders of the Supreme Court selectively, Omtatah says the CA, Information CS Fred Matiang’i and officials of the authority have ended up violating the Bill of Rights and other provisions of the Constitution.

It is his argument that he had a legitimate expectation that after the Supreme Court verdict migration from analogue to digital TV broadcasts would be handled professionally in a manner that protects the public interests.

He argues that the move should protect the rights of those Kenyans who depend on free to air TV channels.

The petitioner wonders why the regulator cannot allow the African Digital Network group the time they require between now and May before the international deadline of July 17 2015 to switch off analogue broadcasts.

“The respondents are under obligation to ensure that Kenyans get free to air TV as a right under the Constitution to impart information,” he states.

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Omtatah has accused the respondents of discharging their mandate of handling digital migration incompetently and in total violation of Articles 109(b) and 56 of the Constitution as they did not consider the interests of the marginalised poor who could not afford digital pay TV.

He contends the respondents should have acted equitably by balancing the needs of those who depend on free to air broadcasting and the elite who can afford pay TV.

Omtatah reasonably suspects that the respondents are promoting pay TV for improper motive and wants the court to hold they have violated the National Information Communications Technology (ICT) policy.

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