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UN Urges Resumption of Independent TV Transmissions in Kenya


An empty studio of a Kenyan TV channel is seen following its coverage of opposition leader Raila Odinga's mock presidential inauguration this week, at the Nation Group media building in Nairobi, Kenya, Feb. 1, 2018.

The Office of the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights criticizes the continued suspension of three independent television stations in Kenya, despite a court ruling that the government ban be lifted.

Human Rights spokesman Rupert Colville says the U.N. office is concerned by the Kenyan government’s refusal to heed the Kenyan High Court’s instruction to allow the TV stations to resume transmission. He says the government should respect and implement the judicial decision.

“We are also concerned at its attempts to interfere with the rights to freedom of expression and association by reportedly warning that participation in Mr. [Raila] Odinga’s ceremony would lead to revocation of licenses. Media organizations that disregarded this advice were shut down,” Colville said.

Earlier this week, Kenya’s main opposition leader, Raila Odinga, held a controversial ceremony in which he declared himself the “peoples’ president.” The government shut down the TV stations to prevent live coverage of the event.

Opposition leader Raila Odinga holds up a bible during a mock inauguration ceremony at Uhuru Park in downtown Nairobi, Kenya, Jan. 30, 2018.
Opposition leader Raila Odinga holds up a bible during a mock inauguration ceremony at Uhuru Park in downtown Nairobi, Kenya, Jan. 30, 2018.

After a disputed election marred by irregularities, Uhuru Kenyatta, was sworn in for a second term as president in November. Odinga, who refuses to accept the election results, organized the opposition mock inauguration ceremony in defiance of the government, which called it treasonous.

Colville told VOA he does not believe the shutdown of the TV stations prevented the violent rioting that had been predicted if Odinga’s ceremony went ahead. He said it is dangerous to make a connection between the two events.

“What is true and I think very good was that the ceremony, which was held by Odinga’s party … passed off peacefully. And, thousands of people attended it despite the government’s warnings that they should not. But, the police seemed to take great care to avoid a major confrontation during that situation,” Colville said.

While Colville called this laudable, he said the continued suspension of the television stations is not and should be ended.

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