Over one hundred and fifty (150) journalists, civil society organization and members of the general public have petitioned Parliament to discipline the Minister Without Portfolio and Katikamu North Member of Parliament, Eng. Abraham Byandala for alleged assault of a Vision Group journalist, Judith Naluggwa.
The group led by the Executive Director of Uganda Women Media Association (UMWA) Margaret Ssentamu and the Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda) National Coordinator Robert Ssempala handed over the petition signed by over 150 people to the Deputy Speaker of Parliament, Jacob Oulanyah to discipline Byandala and force him to apologize for his actions.
“We wonder who protects the journalists on duty… Mr. Byandala should be disciplined, he should be made to apologise to Parliament, journalists, the women and the general public. We ask Parliament to look into the safety and security of journalists on duty. This is not about Judith or Byandala but the bigger picture of the safety and security of media practitioners,” Ssentamu said while presenting the petition at Parliament.
Receiving the petition, Oulanyah said that the minister’s actions were regrettable and put the image of Parliament in disrepute, “Eng. Byandala has to come to Parliament and make a personal statement….. He has put the image of Parliament in disrepute. There are times when emotions override reason; its what has happened in the case of Eng. Byandala. An apology is a big start because that is admission of guilt,” the Deputy Speaker who represented the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga told the petitioners.
The petitioners asked Parliament to put in place a committee to investigate cases of violence and abuse of journalists’ rights.
“There are so many cases of abuse of journalists’ rights for which Parliament should set up a committee to systematically investigate the claims and bring the perpetrators to book. Parliament should also put in place laws which are facilitative to the growth of the media,” Ssempala told the Deputy Speaker.
The petitioning organisations included UMWA, HRNJ-Uganda, Center for Women in Democracy, Center for Media Literacy and Community Development and ISIS-WICCE among others.