Top Stories / 2017 Elections
Tuesday, 01 Aug 2017 19:05 EATnewsdesk@kenyafreepress.com
Joe Mucheru, the minister, is warning that any media that would dare announce the results of the August 8 poll before the IEBC, will be shut down. In 2007/8, at the height of the post-election violence, the government suddenly stopped media from broadcasting live pictures of demonstrations, a move that was widely criticized as amounting to censorship.
On Sunday, the minister warned: “The media is not IEBC…if media announces results, tutafunga (we will shut them down).”
Recently, IEBC’s Ezra Chiloba warned that any media that would declare the outcome of the August 8 General Election before the official announcement would be in violation of the law.
Kenya’s media has always given provisional results of elections.
This is the culmination of Jubilee’s repressive tactics. Last year, in an attempt to starve media organization of income, the ICT ministry decided to set up a central body which would determine where ads would be placed. Previously government ministries and other institutions could decide where they wanted to advertise. Some media have since surrendered and try to curry favour with the government.
The minister’s threat comes amid speculation that the state is planning to shut down the internet on Election Day.
Although both Mucheru and Communications Authority CEO Francis Wangusi have denied this, their coded language leaves little to the imagination.
“Sometimes, when tension is so high, the government may decide to take an action for purposes of protecting the people of Kenya from any adverse outcomes caused by those who want to cause trouble,” Wangusi told journalists recently
Mucheru added: “I can tell you categorically that it is not government policy. It is not our expectation the country will be in the position to shut down internet services.”
Some African countries including Gambia, Ghana, Gabon and Uganda shut down the internet during their recent elections. Some journalists believe that the government is serious about closing down media and the internet, given Jubilee’s attitude towards press freedom.
An official of the Kenya Union of Journalists, Dorothy Jebet, says the Uhuru Kenyatta government does not respect press freedom and would be happy to shut down media if it suited its purposes.
International human rights lobbies, Human Rights Watch and ARTICLE 19 report that journalists and media outlets in Kenya have come under pressure since Kenyatta assumed office in 2013.
The government has attempted to suppress critical journalists with legal, administrative, and informal measures, including threats, intimidation, harassment, online and phone surveillance, and in some cases, physical assaults.
Human Rights Watch and ARTICLE 19 documented 17 separate incidents in which 23 journalists and bloggers were physically assaulted between 2013 and 2017 by government officials or individuals believed to be aligned to government officials.
However, some accuse the media of self-censorship, and of caving in to pressure from the state.
The government introduced laws such as the Kenya Information Communication (Amendment) Act (KICA Bill) 2013 and The Media Council Act 2013, and the Security Act, which had anti-media freedom clauses that effectively give government control over media, contrary to the Article 34 and 35 of Constitution.