How SK Macharia's Defiance Led to Citizen TV Shutdown

  • Citizen TV founder SK Macharia and a signpost showing Royal Media Services stations
    Citizen TV founder SK Macharia and a signpost showing Royal Media Services stations.
  • In the 21st Century, Kenya is among few countries in Africa enjoying media freedom but decades back, that was not the case as Citizen TV founder and billionaire SK Macharia can attest.

    In April 2001, barely two years after launching the TV station, the tycoon had his equipment confiscated by police during a raid into his company's premises.

    At the time, Macharia was accused of going against the requirements of his license, according to a report by the Committee to Protect Journalists titled Attacks on the Press in 2001 - Kenya.

    The authorities claimed that contrary to the Kenya Communications Act of 1998 that required all transmission equipment Limuru, the tycoon had opted to have the transmitters located in his home as well as in office premises in Nairobi.

    Citizen TV owner SK Macharia during a past address.
    Media owner and billionaire SK Macharia

    As a result, the government ordered that both Radio Citizen and Citizen TV be taken off air resulting in a raid that saw his equipment vandalised.

    Consequently, Macharia was arrested and taken in for interrogation before he was released on a Ksh500,000 bond.

    Shortly after his release, the media mogul filed a suit against the state and its agencies regarding his treatment and the confiscation of his broadcasting equipment that paralysed his media empire.

    He wanted the equipment returned and the state barred from interfering with the running of his business. He also argued that the new regulations had been made public after the confiscation of his equipment which made it illegal.

    In August the same year, the media house lost the case to return to air after the court observed that the raid of the media house had been lawfully executed.

    Shockingly though, the 2001 shut down was, however, not the first time the tycoon had a run-in with the then President Daniel Moi-led Government.

    In a past testimony the Royal Media Services (RMS) Chairman revealed that Citizen TV was first closed in 2000, just a month after its initial launch in 1999. The closure came after a fallout between the media mogul and the late President Daniel Moi. 

    The clampdown came shortly after the tycoon received clearance to set up the media house from Moi under the agreement that he would promote the ruling party's agenda.

    In December 2000, the owner of Kunste Hotel in Nakuru approached RMS with a business proposal to broadcast his New Year's Eve Party on the media stations (Citizen TV and Radio Citizen). 

    While the head of state's function was being aired live on KBC the national broadcaster, another was going on at Kunste Hotel being broadcasted by Macharia's TV and radio stations. 

    Some of the president’s men caught wind that a parallel party was being aired live from Nakuru and went to investigate. 

    The following day, they reported to the President that SK Macharia had set up another "State House" at Kunste Hotel and aired by his own company to challenge Moi who ordered for the station's closure.

    Former President Daniel Moi holding his baton
    Former President Daniel Moi holding his baton.
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