, NAIROBI, Kenya, Feb 1 – “The government cannot achieve its Big four agenda without the media,” that’s the message that human rights and media freedom defenders told the government following CS Fred Matiangi’s insistence that the shut stations would remain off-air until further notice.
The government listed specific projects and targets underpinned by its four key pillars — manufacturing, universal healthcare, affordable housing, and food security as President Uhuru Kenyatta’s focus for the next five years.
Henry Maina of Article 19 wondered why the Government would insist on keeping NTV, KTN News and Citizen TV off-air while the country battles chronic levels of unemployment even as they market Kenya as a progressive business destination.
“How is Kenya going to turn around and invite more people to invest in this digital economy that we are creating when there is uncertainty that the rule of law will be followed?” he said.
“It has a big economic cost to the media houses and to the investors.”
Maina said they were shocked that the government – which has consistently said Kenya will be a hub of information and a bastion of a vibrant digital ecosystem – is now reneging on its own words saying, “all those cannot happen if you delegitimise and criminalise the media.”
“How is Kenya going to be turned into a creative economy if the media is criminalised?” he asked.
While speaking on Wednesday at Harambee House, Matiangi committed that every action the government would take would be in accordance with the law because Kenya is a country governed by the rule of law.
“What was witnessed at Uhuru Park was a well-choreographed attempt to subvert or overthrow the legally constituted Government of the Republic of Kenya,” Matiangi said adding that they were “aware of the role of some elements in the media fraternity who participated in furtherance of this illegal act.”
Maina mocked Matiangi’s reiteration that they would pursue media houses and journalists who had a hand in the NASA oath according to the law yet were resorting in the illegal business of intimidating journalists and crippling the media.
“We must point out that, increasingly, we have been told again and again that this government is desirous to turn us into an information economy, a creative economy, a digital economy; the act of vandalism, an illegal act of forcefully switching off the TV stations is an economic sabotage,” he said.
Kenya National Commission for Human Rights, Amnesty International, the Interreligious Council of Kenya, Article 19 and Katiba Institute have said the action to arrest journalists on Wednesday night is a serious threat to the freedom of the media.
The government shut down of media houses received widespread condemnation from human rights organizations including Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurist, Kenya among others.