Kadaga, legislators moot plan to gag media

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Rebecca Kadaga speaker Parliament of Uganda Web Photo

This statement was originally published on the Daily Monitor on 16th/September/2016

PARLIAMENT– Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga yesterday ordered Parliament’s Committee on Rules and Privilege to investigate journalists who write what she considers negative stories against the institution.

Giving the order, the Speaker said the investigation should be with the aim “of charging the reporters with contempt of Parliament.”
The Speaker’s order came after a close to two-hour debate on what the MPs termed as negative press carefully crafted to tarnish the image of the House.

In her communication yesterday, Ms Kadaga complained about stories that appeared in the media, in particular the Daily Monitor story about Parliament budgeting to spend Shs68m as burial costs for an MP who dies.

She said although the story is correct, it portrayed Parliament in bad light. Another Monitor story is one about how MPs will be getting vehicles worth Shs200m and one Observer story that said 78 MPs travelled to the US to attend the UNAA convention.

“Members of Parliament are members of government. It is not coming because it is Kadaga but it’s been the practice. They are entitled to an official burial,” the Speaker said.

“It is a pattern and a campaign of malice against us,” she added.

In unison, MPs, who reacted to the Speaker’s communication, agreed that the media at Parliament is bad, should be controlled through stringent laws. Some proposed that journalists should start swearing an “oath before being allowed to cover Parliament.”

“Parliament is an institution which should be respected. They (media) should follow the rules instead of vulgarising their work. The Parliamentary Commission needs to bring strong guidelines which they should be forced to follow,” said Housing minister Chris Baryomunsi.

Parliament commissioner Peter Ogwang said “freedom of the press is more abused in Uganda” and that must stop.

“It is only in Uganda where a journalist can write something which is unfounded and it makes big news. It is a campaign against us. What is the motive of this campaign? The high attrition of members of Parliament is always attributed to bad press,” Mr Ogwang said.

Budama South MP Jacobs Oboth Oboth said Parliament should find out who is behind the move to demonise Parliament.

“We wonder whether Daily Monitor doesn’t have contingency plans for its workers when they die,” he said. “Who has bewitched Ugandans? What doesn’t matter matters.

“The story (on MPs funeral expenses) was a sad reminder of death and it’s said it found its way on the front page of the monitor. It reminds us that one of us is most likely to die,” he said.
Mr Peter Ssematimba (Bukoto South) and proprietor of Super FM said the committee of ICT, where he sits, is bringing stringent laws to gag the media.

“The Media Act and the Press and Journalists Act are toothless and have no powers to discipline. We are now working to bring a Bill to give the media council strong teeth to bite,” Mr Ssematimba said.

The Uganda Parliamentary Press Association yesterday condemned Parliament’s move to gag the media, saying it infringes on the fundamental freedom of expression. They said they will not be intimidated and vowed to protect the public’s right to know as representatives of the public in Parliament.

By Isaac Imaka

HRNJ-UG Admin

Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) is a network of human rights journalists in Uganda working towards enhancing the promotion, protection and respect of human rights through defending and building the capacities of journalists, to effectively exercise their constitutional rights and fundamental freedoms for collective campaigning through the media.

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