Kampala, 28th January 2013; The Speaker of the Ugandan Parliament Rebecca Kadaga has threatened to suspend a journalist David Tash Lumu from covering news in Parliament over a story he published in a local bi-weekly newspaper ‘The Observer’, which she says was not factual. The story which ran in the Monday, 21 January 2013 edition, was titled ‘How Kadaga, Oulanyah fought over petition’. Kadaga wants the newspaper to retract the story and apologize to her or face suspension.
The story highlighted how the Speaker reportedly handled the petition which was signed by 127 lawmakers seeking a recall of the House to debate President Yoweri Museveni’s handling of the death of Butaleja Woman MP Cerinah Nebanda, which they said amounted to an attack on the independence of Parliament.
The Public Relations Officer of Parliament, Helen Kaweesa told HRNJ-Uganda that the Speaker was very angry about the story. “I have met with the Speaker and agreed on some issues. She is personally very angry, she says the story was not factual; it was misleading and had ill-motives. We met with ‘The Observer’ and told them to retract it and offer an apology, but they are adamant. There are Rules about false reporting, so the journalist must suffer the repercussions. He will be suspended, but The Observer can send in another reporter.” Kaweesa said.
Lumu, who is a member of the Uganda Parliamentary Press Association (UPPA), the vibrant association of journalists reporting from Parliament, defended the story when interviewed by HRNJ-Uganda. “She is denying some of the contents of the story, though it’s a fact that the meeting happened. It’s a story I stand with, which I will never deny because I wrote it myself after talking to multiple sources, although I can’t reveal them.” Lumu said. The Observer’s Managing Editor Richard M. Kavuma said that it would be unfortunate if the journalist is banned, “I met with the Speaker and we talked about it. I chose not be anxious about what they are likely to do. They are very reasonable people; I think they will rise above a ban or suspension.” He told HRNJ-Uganda.
However, UPPA was not aware of the matter. “We don’t know about it since they have not written to us regarding the matter.” UPPA Secretary General Moses Kajangu told HRNJ-Uganda. In 2012, Speaker Kadaga banned a Red Pepper reporter, Henry Mulindwa over a news story. The ban was lifted three months later after UPPA intervened.
“HRNJ-Uganda is greatly concerned about entrenching a culture of suspending or banning of journalists from covering news in Parliament because of the stories they have written. This will threaten sources from talking to journalists for fear of their identities being revealed which will hinder free access to information and consequently freedom of the media. We call upon the Speaker to refer this matter to UPPA to which the journalist is a member. In extreme cases, petition Court.” Said HRNJ-Uganda’s National Coordinator Wokulira Ssebaggala.