The Law Society of Kenya has revived a protest against shut down of three private television stations by the government early this year.
Although the High Court issued an order on suspending the shutdown in a different case and the three TV stations are back on air, the lawyers’ body claimed in a new suit that the rights of those media houses were violated.
Through lawyer Daniel Musyoka, LSK has sued the Interior Cabinet Secretary Fred Matiang’i, his counterpart in ICT Joe Mucheru, the Director-General of the Communicational Authority Francis Wangusi and the Attorney-General.
The society wants the Mr Matiang'i, Mr Mucheru and Mr Wangusi declared unfit to hold public office.
"The three officials abused their power and authority and are individually liable for violating the Constitution which they swore to uphold and protect,” said Mr Musyoka.
Three private leading media firms, Royal Media Services, Nation Media Group and the Standard Group are listed as interested parties in the suit filed Tuesday.
LSK mainly pointed a finger at the Communication Authority Director General Francis Wangusi for failing to give any justifiable reasons before proceeding with the shutdown that continued for at least seven days.
LSK accused the sued parties of violating national values and principles, violating the right to seek, receive and impart information, independence of media as well as fair administrative action.
“At all material times, the sued parties whether acting jointly or severally abused their power and authority by acting in a partisan, subjective as well as dictatorial manner,” said Mr Musyoka.
NTV, KTN and Citizen Tv were switched off on January 30 for airing a live broadcast of the mock swearing in of National Super Alliance leader Raila Odinga at Nairobi’s Uhuru park.
According to Dr Matiang’i during a press conference on January 31, he said media owners and other relevant actors had been given a full security situation brief ahead of that event however some of them allegedly ignored.
He had categorically said that police were looking into the “role of some elements in the media fraternity who participated in the furtherance of an attempt to subvert or overthrow the government”.
But LSK claimed that the actions of the Authority’s boss and Dr Matiang’i were carried out in full knowledge and support of the ICT Cs hence they are all supposed to be held liable for interfering with viewership of the stations with the largest viewership as per a 2017 survey report on television national market share.
LSK alleged that the law bars the state from exercising control over broadcasting, production and circulation of any publication or dissemination of information.
LSK also alleged that the law requires any proposed administrative action likely to be taken to be communicated through a notice or any other internal mechanism available to the affected persons first.
LSK accused the sued parties on unnecessarily punishing the TV stations for not being compliant yet they knew that the shutdown was unlawful.
The lawyers body therefore wants it declared that the Tvs shut down was unlawful and that CAK’s boss as well as the two cabinet secretaries should be held accountable as individual state officers for violating oath of office.
High Court judge Enoch Chacha Mwita said he will issue further directions in the case on May 21.