Kenyans reacted in anger and utter shock as their television sets went blank following the Communications Authority of Kenya’s (CA) decision to switch off television outlets broadcasting on the analogue platform. Leading the protests, Opposition leader Raila Odinga lamented that the Jubilee administration had “thrown the entire country into information darkness”. Raila said those with no access to the expensive pay TV “will never know what is going on in fovernment and with fellow citizens.” “This is because the Jubilee regime is unwilling to arbitrate between a foreign firm and local, home-grown media houses over the distribution of digital frequency signals,” said the Coalition for Reforms and Democracy (CORD) leader last evening in a statement sent to newsrooms. Raila accused the Government for abdicating its responsibility solely on the account of “protecting private interests in which its key members have interests, at the expense of the interests of the public”. “It is also a product of interest in self perpetuation and self-preservation at the expense of public good,” charged the former Prime Minister. Raila stressed that the Government must learn and accept that Kenyans have seen the light and shall never agree to be taken back to darkness. See also: Kenyans fury at TV signal shut down “We stand for the right to information and we will stand with Kenyans in demanding this basic right. We stand for the tested adage that ‘a popular Government without popular information or the means of acquiring it, is but a prologue to a farce or a tragedy or perhaps both’,” he said. The Opposition chief challenged Jubilee to explain what its interests were in keeping Kenyans in what he termed as “information darkness”. An equally astonished Paul Wamatangi, the Kiambu senator, said he would move a motion in the Senate to discuss the switch-off as a matter of national importance on Tuesday. Wamatangi described the move by CA as unacceptable and a violation of the constitutional rights of Kenyans to access information. Disastrous move “A year ago, I had raised the question of whether Kenyans were ready for digital migration and whether the people had been sensitised enough,” he said. “You cannot excommunicate millions out of sheer motivation to flex your muscle on a simple matter that can be addressed amicably.”
ODM Secretary General Ababu Namwamba described the move as a disaster and a tragedy for the Kenyan people. He wondered why a government agency would slap such a punitive measure on its citizens. “This is a grave matter which is unconstitutional because it goes against the people’s right to access information,” Namwamba said. Rarieda MP Nicholas Gumbo, who is member of the Energy, Communication and Information Committee of the National Assembly, termed the move shameful and one that lacks patriotism. “This is misuse of regulatory powers and at the very least a demonstration of extreme recklessness and one-sidedness,” protested Gumbo. But a top official of the rebranded Jubilee Alliance Party (JAP) laid the blame squarely on the three top television stations of KTN, Citizen and NTV for punishing innocent viewers by allegedly switching off their own signals. “The issue of digital migration has been on the cards for quite some time now and surely there was enough time for these stations to migrate their systems to the digital platform,” said David Murathe, JAP’s vice chairman. Absolving the Government from any blame, Murathe attributes the current development to business turf wars. See also: Kenyans fury at TV signal shut down The chairman of the Information committee in the Senate, Mutahi Kagwe, maintained that the switch-off was a global phenomenon and Kenyans had no choice but oblige. “We are supposed to have migrated in 2012 but have been postponing up to now. A time has come that we must jump deep to address our challenges. It is better to switch off the TV stations now and go through resultant difficulties than wait to be switched off globally,” argued Kagwe. The senator called on all parties involved to sit and agree on the way forward, no matter how painful it was. Nyando MP Fred Outa accused the Government of only focusing on minting cash from innocent Kenyans. “I urge all Kenyans to come out and demonstrate against this move by CA and even stop buying decoders as it is denying Kenyans their right to information,” said Outa.