Par­lia­ment Vs Me­dia: It is not Par­lia­men­t’s place to dic­tate ed­i­to­r­ial con­tent

By: Jacky Kemigisa

The row be­tween Par­lia­ment and me­dia deep­ens as both sides de­fi­antly refuse to ac­knowl­edge each oth­er’s lim­i­ta­tions and roles. Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment ac­cuse me­dia of re­port­ing only neg­a­tive sto­ries whereas me­dia says it is not the work of jour­nal­ists to make Par­lia­ment look good, but rather the work of the pub­lic re­la­tions of­fice.

Par­lia­ment has been at logged heads with jour­nal­ists since the 9th Par­lia­ment, as Ob­server jour­nal­ists were banned from cov­er­ing the ple­nary ses­sion. In 2015 the then Sec­re­tary Gen­eral of the Uganda Par­lia­men­tary Press As­so­ci­a­tion (UPPA), Moses Ka­jangu, on Jan­u­ary 15 pe­ti­tioned the court af­ter the house com­mu­ni­cated new re­quire­ments for jour­nal­ists who wish to cover busi­ness when the 10th Par­lia­ment be­gins sit­ting in May.

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


Par­lia­men­t’s Rules of Pro­ce­dure un­der Rule 163 clearly state the func­tions of the Rules, Priv­i­lege and dis­ci­pline com­mit­tee as fol­lows:

(a) to in­quire into any com­plaint of con­tempt of Par­lia­ment or breach of priv­i­lege or any mat­ter of priv­i­lege which may be re­ferred to it and to rec­om­mend to the House such ac­tion as the Com­mit­tee may con­sider ap­pro­pri­ate.

(b) to con­sider any mat­ter of dis­ci­pline re­ferred to it by the Speaker or the House in­clud­ing at­ten­dance of Mem­bers at sit­tings of Com­mit­tees, and to re­port its find­ings to the House;

On Wednes­day 5th Oc­to­ber 2016 the com­mit­tee on Rules Priv­i­lege and Dis­ci­pline, chaired, Hon Ken­neth On­galo Obote, Kalaki County MP, sum­moned ed­i­tors to me­dia houses, out of all the named me­dia houses ed­i­tors of The Ob­server, Uganda Ra­dio Net­work, a news agency and Red Pep­per news­pa­per de­clined to ap­pear be­fore the com­mit­tee to re­spond to al­le­ga­tions of writ­ing neg­a­tive sto­ries on Par­lia­ment.

The rules were made for Mem­bers of Par­lia­ment and any other party that Par­lia­ment would be in­ter­ested. How­ever, me­dia houses can de­cline to ap­pear be­fore the com­mit­tee and Par­lia­ment would­n’t do any­thing about it.

In re­sponse to the threats by Speaker Kadaga, jour­nal­ists cov­er­ing par­lia­ment un­der their um­brella body, the Uganda Par­lia­men­tary press as­so­ci­a­tion also is­sued a state­ment stat­ing their stand.

We will 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. We are in Par­lia­ment as a right. We are legally pro­tected.


It is wrong for a 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.

It is not Par­lia­men­t’s place to dic­tate the ed­i­to­r­ial con­tent of a me­dia house, how­ever to in­ten­tion­ally pub­lish false news about