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BY KORIR JUMA,NAIROBI,1st FEB 2018-Activist Okiya Omtatah has moved to court challenging government move of shutting down three major TV stations.
He wants the court to compel the relevant authorities to restore the transmission of the affected stations.
Omtatah, in the petition filed at the Milimani law court on Thursday, has sued Cabinet Secretaries Joe Mucheru (ICT) and Fred Matiang’i (Interior).
He wants the court to direct the government to restore live transmission of NTV, Citizen, and KTN with immediate effect as well as compensating the affected media houses.
The activist also wants the court to bar the state from further interference with all television transmissions of the three media houses.
“The shutdown of TV transmission is grossly arbitrary, disproportionate, oppressive and unreasonable which constitutes to an illegality.”
Omtatah argues that it is of utmost importance that the shutdown is suspended to protect the interest of the public.
“To cure this absurdity and to avoid compromising the public interest, it is profoundly important that the shutdown be suspended,” he says.
He says that the government’s action violates the right to freedom of expression.
Omtatah says this follows the state limiting freedom of access “on grounds that have no proximate relation to the limitations permitted by the constitution”.
He says that the public’s right to information under Article 35 is directly affected since the switch off curtailed the public’s right of access to information broadcast by the affected media houses.
The activist further argues that the statement issued by Matiang’i on the shutdown signals a return to the KANU dictatorship which the people of Kenya rejected.
“The government follows the unconstitutional and totally acceptable position that it is justified to violate the constitution and to break the law to keep the peace.”
The petition states if there is a state of emergency, then the government can invoke Article 58 of the Constitution but since it has not, its pleas that it is addressing an emergency are unfounded in law and are null and void.
He further tells the court that that Without warning and without giving reasons on the morning of January 30, the government switched off free to air transmission on three major TV stations.
Omtatah states that the switch off was undertaken contrary to the dictates of the constitution, fair administrative action act, and the Statutory Instruments Act.
He says that unless the application is urgently heard and determined, the people of Kenya will suffer great loss and damage as statute and the constitution to be violated.