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Government lifts ban on live broadcasting, cautions foreign correspondents against "inflammatory" reporting

(Media Institute/IFEX) - On 4 February 2008, the Kenya government unconditionally lifted the month-long ban imposed on live broadcasting.

A brief letter revoking the ban faxed to newsrooms by the ministry's administrative head said: "In view of the improved situation, the Minister for Internal Security Hon. George Saitoti has revoked the directive and consequently the suspension is lifted with immediate effect."

The government's action came on the eve of the hearing of a lawsuit filed by the Media Institute and the Kenya Editors Guild (KEG) challenging the legal basis for the order issued on 30 December 2007. Lawyers for both parties appeared in Court on 5 February and marked the suit as settled.

The ban had been imposed to curb live reporting of political events in the wake of the declaration and hurried swearing-in of President Mwai Kibaki after a hotly contested election that was described by various international and local observers as "seriously flawed". The result triggered unprecedented demonstrations and rioting that claimed over 1000 lives and drew international mediation by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan.

Addressing a press conference a day after the lifting of the ban, Information Minister Samuel Poghisio urged the media to be vigilant against inflammatory content. He said that the government would form a task force to consider, among others, rigorous vetting of foreign correspondents. The government has recently been at loggerheads with foreign media over its reporting of the political crisis.

The Media Institute commends the government for the timely action but considers any precipitous measures taken against the press at this point in time to be inappropriate and aimed at intimidating the media.

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