Journalists covering parliament under their umbrella body, the Uganda Parliamentary Press Association [UPPA] have laughed off threats by Speaker Rebecca Kadaga who wants them grilled for negative stories.
On Tuesday 27th September 2016, the Speaker of parliament Rt Hon Kadaga threatened to sue journalists who publish what she deemed as negative stories about the House and Members.
“The stories that were published by Daily Monitor, about MPs getting UGX 200M for cars and the UGX 68M to be spent on the each MP’s funeral and another by the Observer claiming that 78 MPs had travelled to attend the UNAA convention in the USA, were false and depicted the institution in bad light and that Parliament journalists are working with “enemies” of Parliament to taint its image,” said Speaker Kadaga.
She summoned the media houses to appear before Parliament’s committee on Rules, Privileges and Discipline, to respond to allegations of writing negative stories on Parliament.
Editors of The Observer, a tri-weekly newspaper, Uganda Radio Network, a news agency and Red Pepper newspaper, failed to appear before the committee, after invitations were issued to them last week by the committee, to appear and explain why they ran stories deemed to be sensational and unbalanced, and placing Parliament’s image in disrepute.
Speaking on behalf of the journalists, Isaac Imaka, the president of the Parliamentary Press Association, said press would continue doing that which is right as “we execute our mandate as journalists and protecting the public’s right to know”.
“We are representatives of the public in parliament. We are not in Parliament as a show of courtesy from Parliament,” he reminded the speaker.
He added: “We are in Parliament as a right. We are legally protected.”
Critics are already condemning Parliament which is supposed to make laws that protect fundamental human rights i.e freedom of expression to be the same Parliament that is hatching plans to muzzle media freedom simply because a story does not suit or reflect their work or expectations.