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Kenyan Government Defends Closure of Radio Station


The Kenyan government is defending its suspension of programming from a radio station that broadcasts to an area that had been plagued by ethnic clashes. The government has accused the station of trying to destabilize the country ahead of a controversial constitutional referendum next week.

Kenyan government spokesman Alfred Mutua told reporters that programming from a Rift Valley radio station called KASS FM used threatening and inflammatory language.

He accused the radio station, broadcast in the Kalenjin language, of inciting listeners to prepare for a war after the country's November 21 referendum and said that programming called for listeners to "violently eject" anyone supporting the government's position in the upcoming vote.

Mr. Mutua said his government would not allow any radio station to broadcast material that would "destabilize the country's security," especially in an area that had ethnic clashes in the past.

The Communications Commission of Kenya Wednesday suspended KASS FM's broadcasting until November 23, two days after Kenyans go to the polls to decide whether or not to accept the latest draft constitution.

President Mwai Kibaki and several ministers have publicly come out in favor of the draft constitution, while opposition leader Uhuru Kenyatta and other ministers have denounced the draft document.

Many Kenyans Thursday criticized the commission's decision to suspend KASS FM's programming.

The program manager at a constitutional advocacy group called the National Convention Executive Council, Ndung'u Wainaina, tells VOA he thinks the radio station was shut down because it was critical of the government's support of the draft constitution.

"It appears that the establishment might be feeling that it [the station] is not actually articulating the establishment's position," he said. "Yet, at the same time, we have had other media houses which have been very vocal in terms of propagating state positions and yet we have never had any criticism from the government."

Mr. Wainaina notes that people in the Rift Valley area where the station is located are largely expected to vote against the draft constitution.

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