Katiba Institute on Thursday, March 23 wrote to the Communications Authority of Kenya (CA) demanding an explanation that led to the censure of six television stations that broadcast Azimioa Umoja-One Kenya coalition demonstrations on Monday, March 20.
In a letter addressed to CA Director General Ezra Chiloba, the institute said the move undermined the freedom and independence of the media in Kenya.
"We see your action as a threat to freedom of expression, information, and of the media and a repetition of the 2018 TV shutdown by you.
"Your decision endangers life because it would enable the trigger-happy Kenyan National Police Service to operate in darkness. That would be a real threat to peace and cohesion in the country," the letter read in part.
The institute said CA decision took Kenya to the era of state-sponsored censorship.
"We think that your decision is a throwback to the era of state-sponsored censorship and a presumption that the Kenyan public is not adult enough for the marketplace of ideas. Thus your prior censorship of the live TV broadcasts."
The body further reminded the CA of the High Court decision that bared the state from limiting the media.
"We remind you of the many High Court decisions forbidding limiting media freedom on vague grounds like the one in your letter.
"Hence we demand that within the next 24 hours, you revoke the unconstitutional communication, give us copies of the letter sent to the six media houses and Give us minutes and recordings of the Authority meeting at which you made this unconstitutional decision," the letter added.
On Wednesday, March 22, Chiloba flagged six local television stations for allegedly violating the Programming Code while covering the Azimio la Umoja-One Kenya coalition protests on March 20, 2023.
In a statement, Chiloba accused the six TV stations namely Citizen TV, NTV, K24, KBC, TV47 and Ebru TV, of providing coverage in a manner that violated the Programming Code.
According to Chiloba, the coverage by the six media outlets depicted scenes that could cause panic or incitement to the public, threatening peace and cohesion in the country.
"The Authority has, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the law, issued notices to the identified broadcasters to take immediate remedial actions," Chiloba stated.
"Section 33 of the Constitution of Kenya as read together with Section 5B of the Kenya Information and Communication Act, which provides that the constitutionally guaranteed right to Freedom of Expression, does not extend to propaganda for war, incitement to violence, hate speech or advocacy of hatred that constitutes ethnic incitement, vilification of others, or incitement to cause harm or discrimination."
Among the laws the media outlets that the stations are accused of breaking include clauses 461 (1) (a) Kenya Information and Communications Act which requires licensed broadcasters to provide responsible and responsive programming that caters for the varied needs and susceptibilities of different sections of the Kenyan community.
Chiloba also cited clauses 19 (1) (c) and (d) Kenya Information and Communications (Broadcasting) Regulations which require a licensee to ensure that no broadcasts by its station "glorifies violence or depicts violence in an offensive manner; or is likely to incite, perpetuate hatred, vilify any person or section of the community.
"All broadcasters are hereby reminded of their obligations as outlined in clause 10.2.1 of the Programming Code which requires broadcasters to take care in coverage of crisis situations so as not to hinder or obstruct efforts by authorities to resolve the situation," Chiloba stated.
Other laws cited by Chiloba include section 5.8.4 of the Programming Code which states that the presentation of news and commentaries must not be done in a way that would create unnecessary panic or alarm, and section 5.8.3 of the Programming Code which states that morbid, violent, sensational or alarming details that are not essential to factual reporting are not permissible.