Kenya: Government Lifts Ban on Live Broadcasts

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The Government has lifted the ban on live coverage of political events. In a statement signed by Information and Communications permanent secretary on Monday, 4 February 2008, the Government said that the ban had been lifted with immediate effect. PS Bitange Ndemo said that the ban was lifted by Internal Security minister George Saitoti following the improvement of security in the country.

The ban was slapped on local media houses on December 30 after President Kibaki was sworn in to begin his second term in office after a disputed re-election. In a letter addressed to all media houses, Dr Ndemo had directed the houses to stop broadcasting any inciting or alarming material and take responsibility for such broadcasts. But after the ban, the media fraternity demanded an unconditional withdrawal of the order. The Media Council of Kenya described the decision as "retrogressive" and an attempt to curtail Press freedom.

Council chairman Wachira Waruru said the order was impractical and difficult to implement - call-in programmes and all news coverage at the top of the hour are covered live on radio and TV stations. Waruru then threatened that if the Government did not review its stand, the media would have no option but to defy the ban. "We are not ready to comply with orders seeking to muzzle the Press. However, we are appealing to the Information ministry to withdraw the order," he had said.

The National Convention Executive Council (NCEC), the Kenya chapter of the International Commission of Jurists and Cotu also criticised the ban, saying the media should be allowed to do their work. The International Press Institute also added its voice to the calls.

Last week, the Media Institute went to court seeking orders to quash the ban. The ban, announced by former Internal Security minister John Michuki, was justified on claims that emotions demonstrated during live broadcasts were inciting violence.

The Nation Nairobi