Three Kenyan journalists on Thursday said they spent the night in their newsroom in fear of arrest, watching plainclothes policemen camped outside, and that their lawyers would file court petitions in the morning seeking to ensure their freedom.
Their station, NTV, was one of three independently owned stations shut down by Kenyan authorities on Tuesday after they broadcast live coverage of an opposition ceremony symbolically “swearing in” opposition leader Raila Odinga.
“Because of the reports we received late afternoon yesterday, actually early evening, we were forced to stay within this building — within the office — just to make sure that the arrest was not executed. This is because we were told, we were informed by very reliable sources that policemen were downstairs and what they wanted to do was to arrest us when we leave the building, so we have since that time not left the building,“Linus said.
NTV’s general manager, Linus Kaikai told Reuters that the action raised concerns about the freedom of the press in Kenya.
“This is a very unfortunate situation, it doesn’t sit well with the story of our country, our media is vibrant, independent, our democracy is very, very vibrant. A lot of countries across the continent have been learning a lot from us on many, many things including the way we carry our own things, be it between media and governance. It’s been a very vibrant environment so what we are seeing here is very, very strange, three television stations that do command a viewership of upwards 70-80 percent across the country on free to air television, they are off-air, doesn’t bode very well”,Linus added.
Kaikai, who is also chairman of the Kenya Editors’ Guild, said editors had been warned by authorities that they could be shut down if they covered the event.
The stations would stay off air indefinitely, the government said on Wednesday as it investigates the symbolic oath by Odinga, directly challenging President Uhuru Kenyatta.
A Kenyan high court suspended a government shutdown of the three TV channels, NTV Kenya reported on its twitter feed on Thursday.