Kenya: ARTICLE 19 welcomes Supreme Court decision on digital migration

ARTICLE 19 welcomes a ruling by the Supreme Court of Kenya (Petition NO. 14 of 2014) which ordered the digital migration process to be done in a consultative manner and be open to all players.

“ARTICLE 19 has consistently called upon the Kenyan government to ensure openness, transparency and universal access as the only way to guarantee that all people enjoy the benefits that come from digital broadcasting, and we are happy the Supreme Court concurred. It is now vital that all stakeholders agree on a mutually acceptable roadmap to aid in the transition,” said Henry Maina, Director for ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa.

The heart of this case was whether the Communications Authority of  Kenya (CAK) lawfully and constitutionally allocated a Broadcast Signal Distribution (BSD) license to Pan African Network Group Kenya Limited (PANG) a company that is wholly owned by foreigners. The Court was also asked to determine whether CAK, infringed on the fundamental rights of local media houses, Royal Media Services Limited, Nation Media Group Limited and Standard Media Group Limited when it denied the latter a BSD license.

While overturning the Court of Appeal judgment, the Supreme Court also ordered the CAK as the regulator to consider applications from the local consortium as well as that from any other local broadcasters within 90 days. The ruling also noted that the management of the broadcast spectrum is not just about procedures and processes, but about fair play and equity that places public good above government, commercial or other interests.

“This ruling not only affirmed freedom of the media but also fosters media diversity and pluralism by enabling the broadcasting of more channels with a wider range of programming. As a result, viewers and listeners would be able to receive more diverse information and opinions,” added Maina.

As they embark on dialogue, ARTICLE 19 calls upon the CAK and media stakeholders to adopt a rights-based approach to digitalization directed at promoting and protecting human rights, analysing inequalities, and redressing discriminatory practices and the unjust distribution of power, information and resources. Specifically, there is a need to take measures to make the set top boxes affordable and provide sufficient information about the new digital technology. The Kenyan government should also consider allowing simultaneous digital and analogue broadcasting until all stakeholders are prepared to switch completely to digital TV and facilitate access to information in the process. 

Fore more information:

For a policy brief on Digital Switchover and the right to Freedom of Expression, see http://www.article19.org/resources.php/resource/3618/en/digital-switchover-and-the-right-to-freedom-of-expression

  • For media interviews please contact: Henry Maina, Director, ARTICLE 19 Eastern Africa on Email:henry@article19.org or call on +254 727 862330