The African Editors Forum (TAEF) has described as outdated, draconian and deplorable the Kenyan government’s decision last Tuesday to shut three media outlets, preventing them from covering a “Swearing-in” ceremony organised by opposition leader, Raila Odinga.
The television and radio networks had intended to carryout live coverage of the widely condemned political event, but the Kenyan authorities moved in to scuttle the plan citing security implications.
But in a statement copied to ghanabusinessnews.com, TAEF said because the rally was of major public interest to all Kenyans and that journalism is the first draft of history, the presence of journalists at the event was neither an indication of support or lack thereof of an event, but a constitutional duty to record for the public, events of major public interest and importance.
TAEF condemned the blocking of transmission by the state, arguing it was only an attempt to block the public from knowing what is going on.
The Forum is demanding an apology from the government.
“TAEF calls on the government of President Uhuru Kenyatta to apologise to the nation for the criminal and unconstitutional act. TAEF further calls on the government to provide assurances to all Kenyans that the government will allow freedom of the media to reign and it will not abuse its power to censor views that it does not agree with,” the statement said.
The statement continued that It was sad to see Kenya, which has been one of the leading media freedom lights on the continent, descending into a country where this freedom is under serious threat.
The Forum’s Chairperson, Jovial Rantao recalled that TAEF raised concern about the conduct of the government in the run-up to and during the elections and does so again today following the censorship around an event organised by the opposition leader.
“TAEF reiterates its stance that the government of Kenya and others on the continent must remove, from their statuette books, laws that are inimical to media freedom”, the statement concluded.
Kenyan opposition leader Raila Odinga, who boycotted the country’s disputed election last year, swore himself in as the “people’s president” at a mock inauguration ceremony Tuesday in protest against President Uhuru Kenyatta.
Thousands of opposition supporters gathered at Uhuru Park in central Nairobi, chanting slogans and waving tree branches at the symbolic “swearing-in” event, which was organized by Odinga’s National Super Alliance (NASA).
The event was largely peaceful, and the throngs of supporters quickly left the park after proceedings had concluded. In what appear s to be an isolated incident, police fired tear gas to try to disperse crowds pulling down signs near the park.
Authorities had earlier said they would put a stop to any illegal meetings, but Reuters reported that no uniformed police could be seen in the park and no anti-riot officers or vehicles were visible.
Kenyatta won a second presidential term with 98 per cent of the vote following a controversial election rerun in November. The country’s Supreme Court nullified the previous ballot, also won by Kenyatta, due to “illegalities and irregularities.”
Odinga and his opposition party dropped out of the second vote, claiming the election commission had failed to implement any reforms.
NASA says it wants to create an alternative government to protest Kenyatta’s rule.
But the government has warned that Tuesday’s events amount to treason — an offense punishable by death, according to Kenyan law.
By Emmanuel J.K Arthur
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