Ezra Chiloba, CEO of the Communication Authority, threatened to revoke the licenses of six media stations, Citizen TV, NTV, K24, TV47, and EBRU TV, on Wednesday after they aired live coverage of the anti-government protest called in by Azimio La Umoja Leader, Raila Odinga, claiming that the protest would disrupt the country’s peace.
This threat was not well received by the Katiba Institute, an NGO that seeks to promote knowledge and understanding of Kenya’s constitution, as well as defend and facilitate its implementation.
Through lawyer Dudley Ochiel, the institute claimed that Mr. Chiloba’s actions were unconstitutional, referring to it as a threat to media freedom, and that revoking the station’s licenses would be the real threat to the country’s peace.
“We see your action as a threat to freedom of expression, information, and of the media and a repetition of the 2018 TV shutdown by you. Your decision endangers life because it would enable the trigger-happy Kenyan National Police Service to operate in darkness. That would be the real threat to peace and cohesion in the country,” said Mr. Ochiel.
The Institute also wants CA to retract the statement and provide them with the six letters of warning that were sent to media outlets, warning them that their license would be revoked if they did not comply with the regulations.
“Failure to adhere to the outlined obligations shall be acting in breach of license conditions, which shall attract liability under relevant provisions of the law including revocation of broadcast license or/and broadcast frequencies,” Mr. Chiloba Said.
According to the NGO, the CEO’s demand that the media stop broadcasting scenes that are a threat to peace and cohesion is a way of returning the country to state-sponsored censorship era.
“We think that your decision is a throwback to the era of state-sponsored censorship and a presumption that the Kenyan public is not adult enough for the market place of ideas. Thus your prior-censorship of live TV broadcasts. We remind you of the many High Court decisions forbidding limiting media freedom on vague grounds like the ones in your letter,” Mr.Ochiel added.