Kenyan television channels back on air


Two Kenyan television channels shut down by government over coverage of the political opposition resumed partial broadcasting on Monday, with a third channel remaining off the air.

The unprecedented act of censorship sparked a local and international backlash against the government of President Uhuru Kenyatta, who won an election in October.

It also reinvigorated an opposition that had appeared unsure of its next step after a highly publicised rally last week at which leader Raila Odinga symbolically inaugurated himself as president.

The NTV, KTN News and Citizen TV channels were taken off the air last Tuesday, hours before they were due to broadcast Odinga’s event. The United States, the United Nations and former colonial ruler Britain strongly criticised government’s censorship.

The government ignored a court order issued on Thursday to restore the stations, prompting activist Okiya Omtatah to file a case seeking the arrest of officials for contempt of court.

On Monday, police teargassed demonstrators demanding the stations reopen as they tried to march on government offices.

It was unclear why government switched back on the transmitters. A spokesman for the government was not available for comment.
“There’s been no form of communication from government,” said Larry Madowo of NTV, which resumed broadcasting on pay-to-view channels although its free-to-air channel, which uses different transmitters, was still off. KTN News was back on its free-to-air channel.

Madowo noted the transmitters for Citizen TV were in a different place, which might explain the delay.


Odinga’s symbolic inauguration in the capital of East Africa’s wealthiest economy was intended as a direct challenge to Kenyatta. Odinga insists he, not Kenyatta, was the true winner of a disputed presidential election last August.

The Supreme Court nullified the August election on procedural grounds and Kenyatta won a repeat poll in October after Odinga boycotted it, claiming it would not be fair.

Since the symbolic inauguration, Odinga and his supporters have repeatedly promised to outline their next step, only to postpone unveiling their plan.

Most of their statements have focused on the brief detention of three opposition politicians who took part in Odinga’s ceremony, which took place peacefully after government withdrew police from the site.

Around 100 people were killed during the protracted election season, most of them Odinga supporters shot by police.

Odinga supporters are angered by police impunity, persistent government corruption and the perceived neglect of large swathes of the country by the central government.