Kenya defies court order on shut NTV, 2 others

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Kenyan authorities have defied a court order asking for the lifting of the ban on NTV Kenya and two other private  television channels.

Authorities turned off the three channels as they began to cover opposition leader Raila Odinga’s symbolic presidential inauguration on Tuesday.

NTV Kenya, three of whose journalists said they had spent the night in their newsroom in fear of arrest, said on its Twitter feed that the privately owned broadcasters were expected back on air after the High Court ruling.

“Government expected to restore NTV, Citizen TV & KTN News signals after High Court suspends switch off for 14 days pending case being heard,” it tweeted.

The government shut down the TV channels on Tuesday as they began coverage of a rally during which Odinga — who says last year’s elections, won by President Uhuru Kenyatta, were rigged — declared himself president in a brief, symbolic ceremony.

The shutdown, unprecedented in Kenya’s democratic era, prompted fierce public criticism and raised fears the country was reverting to the censorship that characterized decades of repressive one-party rule under strongman Daniel arap Moi.

The court’s decision — to suspend the shutdown for two weeks while a case challenging the legality of the government’s action is heard — will boost the newly-independent judiciary’s image in East Africa’s regional powerhouse and wealthiest economy.

The government’s attempted censorship made global headlines about a country that is valued by investors for its stability, relative freedom and steady economic growth.

“This is clearly a slide to dictatorship. It’s a return to a repressive period we had forgotten about,” NTV journalist Larry Madowo told Reuters. “We are becoming another African country.”

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