In an unprecedented move, Kenyan authorities forced three news broadcasters off the air on Tuesday for planning to cover opposition leader Raila Odinga’s unsanctioned inauguration.
Odinga boycotted a rerun of the 2017 presidential election in October due to allegations of corruption, after the original election in August was annulled over allegations of irregularities.
Incumbent Uhuru Kenyatta won a second term and was sworn in last November.
Mr. Kenyatta warned media not to cover the unofficial swearing-in event, with the chief prosecutor describing the ceremony as tantamount to treason.
After their signals were cut off at 9:10 a.m. local time on Tuesday, private broadcasters NTV, KTN and Citizen TV continued coverage of the event online, on social media and on YouTube.
Radio stations also had their signal cut.
While threats have been made in the past, the government switching off media broadcasting signals is unusual, the BBC reported.
Local journalists denounced the move as an outrageous attack on the press, releasing a statement that called for respecting the constitution and an end to the “unprecedented intimidation of journalists”, the BBC reported.
Police made a move to cordon off Uhuru Park in central Nairobi where the swearing-in was set to take place, but soon backed off, according to local reports.
Odinga criticized the government’s media ban, saying that it confirmed his country has “descended to the level of Uganda”, an African nation that had stopped media coverage of elections in 2016.
Odinga sworn in
Mr. Odinga was sworn in on Tuesday surrounded by some 10,000 supporters in Uhuru Park in the Kenyan capital Nairobi.
The supporters say Odinga is their rightfully legitimate leader.
“I, Raila Omolo Odinga, do swear that I will protect the nations as people’s preaident, so help me God,” the rival president said, swearing in to the cheers of thousands.
The attorney general of Kenya said Odinga could be charged with treason, a crime that can carry the death penalty, reported Reuters news agency.
As for plans following his unsanctioned inauguration ceremony, Odinga refused to reveal more, telling local news media to “hold your horses”.
More details to follow. Image of supporters awaiting Raila Odinga from Reuters.