NAIROBI, Kenya — After a nearly week-old media blackout, the Kenyan government returned some television stations to the air late Monday, five days after a court order demanding their restoration “with immediate effect.”
NTV, which is owned by the Nation Media Group, was restored to cable and satellite broadcasting just after 5 p.m., though viewer access to the station via public television remained blocked. KTN was fully restored.
Government officials dismantled the transmission equipment of four stations last week as they broadcast an opposition event at which Raila Odinga, who lost anelection to President Uhuru Kenyatta last October, declared himself “the people’s president.”
The government’s move to intimidate and censor the news media for reporting on dissent has alarmed rights lawyers and activists, who called it a stunning reversal in a country that had been praised as a shining example of democracy.
Citizen TV and its Kikuyu-language sister station, Inooro TV, remained off the air on Monday, and an executive of their parent company said he suspected that the government was retaliating for a court case that the company filed against it last week.
“The difference between us and the others is that we went to court and the others didn’t,” said Wachira Waruru, the managing director of the parent company, Royal Media Services.
“We all covered the same thing,” he said of Mr. Odinga’s event.
KBC, the state broadcaster, and K24, a private station with close ties to the president’s family, did not broadcast the event and were unaffected by the blackout.
Mr. Kenyatta had warned media outlets not to broadcast the event, which government officials said they would consider treason. Fred Matiang’i, the interior secretary, said last week that he would keep all of the defiant stations off the air while he investigated them for collusion with the opposition.
The partial restoration came hours after another petition was filed, asking the court to hold Mr. Matiang’i and other officials in contempt for their defiance of last week’s order to allow the stations to immediately resume broadcasting.
The contempt request has not yet been ruled on by the court.
NTV executives said they had been given no reason for the return to the air, nor even much notice.
Linus Kaikai, the NTV general manager and chairman of the Kenya Editors Guild, said officials from the Communications Authority of Kenya had returned equipment they removed last week when they shuttered the stations. That equipment, called a transponder, allows stations to communicate with satellites to broadcast their programs, he said.
But most viewers rely on public television access to watch NTV, and as of Monday night that had not been restored, he said.
NTV shares its public distribution network with Citizen TV. That network, which reaches the majority of Kenyan viewers, remains offline.
Mr. Kaikai said NTV had become “collateral damage” in the government’s feud with another station.
“Right now they seem to be dividing the broadcasters,” he said. “Why are they not switching all of us back at the same time?”
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