The High Court has suspended the Communication Authority of Kenya’s (CA) decision to censure six TV stations for covering anti-government demonstrations last Monday.
Justice John Chigiti ruled that the case filed by Katiba Institute, Law Society of Kenya and journalist unions raises weighty issues that shall be heard and determined on merit at the appropriate stage.
The CA Director-General Ezra Chiloba, in a statement on Wednesday, threatened to revoke the operating broadcast licenses of six TV stations namely; Citizen, NTV, K24, KBC, TV47 and Ebru Africa over how they covered the mass demonstrations.
Chiloba claimed the TV stations violated the Programming Code as the coverage depicted scenes that could cause panic or incitement to the public, and threaten peace and cohesion in the country.
LSK, Katiba Institute, Editors Guild, Kenya Union of Journalists, Kenya correspondents Association and Bloggers Association of Kenya, however, moved to court to challenge the said letter saying it violated the rules of natural justice.
“None of the six media houses was heard on the decision to censure them and no reasons informed the decision because CA refused to supply them with copies of the letters it alleged it had sent to the six media houses,” argued the petitioners in court documents.
Through lawyer Dudley Ochiel, the petitioners contend that the CA’s decision is informed by a material error of law as the cited portion (section 10.2.1) of the Programming Code does not say what CA claims it says.
“The Code has expired and has no legal effect under section 46H(2)(b) of the Kenya Information and Communications Act, 2009 and section 11(1) and (4) of the Statutory Instruments Act, 2013,” they argue in court documents.
It is their case that section 46H(2)(b) of KICA requires the CA to review the Programming Code at least once every two years and the regulatory Authority last reviewed the Programming Code in September 2019 which means the code expired in September 2021, over 18 months ago.
Justice Chigiti issued the temporary orders and directed the petition to be served to all parties for the matter to be mentioned on May 10.