NOVEMBER 16, 2005
Posted: December 2, 2005
The Communications Commission of Kenya (CCK), an official regulatory body, suspended the privately owned radio station Kass FM, which broadcasts in the local Kalenjin language from the capital, Nairobi. Government spokesman Alfred Mutua accused the station of inciting ethnic hatred and violence, but local journalists and opposition politicians said that the closure was politically motivated. The station was known for criticizing the government’s draft constitution, which was put to a national referendum on November 21.
According to news reports, the CCK had not provided Kass FM with any prior warning or suspension order. The regulator did not provide any evidence for its allegations that the station had aired incendiary programs, and it asked the station’s management to provide tapes of its transmissions for the past 21 days. The CCK said that after seven days, the station’s management would have to defend Kass FM from a permanent suspension of its frequencies.
The government’s action against Kass FM came against a backdrop of political unrest in Kenya during the run-up to the constitutional referendum, at which the controversial draft constitution was eventually rejected by voters. Eight members of parliament from the central Rift Valley Province, where many of the station’s ethnic Kalenjin listeners live, protested the suspension, saying it was imposed in order to silence voices critical of the draft. The Kenyan Union of Journalists (KUJ) and the Nairobi-based Africa Free Media Foundation, an independent press freedom organization, also condemned the station’s closure. Former president and current opposition leader Daniel Arap Moi, who is himself Kalenjin, had spearheaded the opposition to the draft; some local observers saw the CCK’s action as a move to curtail his influence.
On November 18, authorities allowed Kass FM to begin broadcasting again. KUJ leader Ezekiel Mutua told CPJ that the decision to allow the station back on the air was a response to the protests from local journalists and media organizations. According to the independent daily The Nation, Kass FM’s owner, C.K. Joshua, agreed to submit recordings of the station’s broadcasts to the CCK for 90 days in exchange for permission to resume operations.