As Government Ignores Court Order, Kenya's Media Blackout Continues : Parallels The government shut off three news stations to prevent coverage of the opposition leader declaring himself president. Press freedom advocates worry it represents a slide toward authoritarianism.
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As Government Ignores Court Order, Kenya's Media Blackout Continues

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As Government Ignores Court Order, Kenya's Media Blackout Continues

As Government Ignores Court Order, Kenya's Media Blackout Continues

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MARY LOUISE KELLY, HOST:

Kenya is in the fourth day of a major crackdown on the opposition and the media. It all comes after the opposition leader, Raila Odinga, declared himself president despite losing an election. The government responded by switching off news stations and arresting his associates. NPR's Eyder Peralta reports it is now also ignoring court orders to reverse course.

EYDER PERALTA, BYLINE: The day here in Nairobi starts with an explosion and gunfire as police breach the wall of Miguna Miguna's house. The opposition lawyer had stood next to opposition leader Raila Odinga when he declared himself president. Yesterday, Miguna Miguna dared the government to make good on its promise and arrest him for a ceremony the government said was treason. Today the police pounced. And as his supporters arrived, they fired tear gas to disperse them.

UNIDENTIFIED WOMAN: The power is with the people again.

(SOUNDBITE OF POPPING)

PERALTA: Across town, civil rights activist and lawyer Okiya Omtatah was trying to unravel another standoff. He sued the government over its decision to shut down three major news stations, and Kenya's high court issued an injunction. The government, they said, should turn on the stations immediately. But Omtatah was trying to deliver the order to the Communications Authority and a police officer stopped him at the gate. He says maybe Kenyans got complacent. They were lulled by a constitution that's considered one of the most progressive on the continent. But Omtatah says the constitution is only as good as those who implement it, so it's time to go back to the trenches and defend the gains.

OKIYA OMTATAH: So I think - so I crawled back through the trenches to protect the little gains we have made.

PERALTA: The government has remained quiet on this issue. They haven't put out statements and have ignored the high court order. President Uhuru Kenyatta did make a public appearance, but didn't allow for any questions.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

PRESIDENT UHURU KENYATTA: (Foreign language spoken).

PERALTA: Instead he told reporters to pack and get out. Late this afternoon, a court also ordered Miguna Miguna to be released on bail. But his lawyers didn't know where he'd been taken, and the government wasn't being forthcoming. Okiya Omtatah spent the rest of his day notifying whomever he could find. He gave the order to the attorney general, to the ministers for interior and information, but the TV stations remained dark. Eyder Peralta, NPR News, Nairobi.

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