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Parliament Summons Editors Over "Bad Press"

The move has been seen as an attempt to gag journalists and media coverage of Parliament of Uganda.
A journalist at work
Parliament's Rules and Privileges Committee has summoned editors of Media Houses for allegedly publishing negative stories about the institution of Parliament. 

The committee Chaired by Kalaki MP Ongalo Obote sent out the summons on Thursday through the Clerk.

The committee wants editors of Uganda Radio Network, The Red Pepper, The Observer, The New Vision, The Daily Monitor and National Association of Broadcasters to appear on 5th October this year.

Pallisa County MP Jacob Opolot, a member of the committee, confirmed to Uganda Radio Network that the media houses have been summoned as per the directive of Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga.

Efforts to speak to the rules committee chairperson Ongalo Obote and his Vice Chairperson Abbas Agaba were futile. They were both not picking or returning calls.  

The summons follows the 15th September debate on the floor of Parliament where MPs castigated the media for alleged negative press carefully crafted to tarnish the image of Parliament.

Speaker Kadaga ordered Parliament's Rules, Discipline and Privileges Committee to investigate journalists and their Media Houses with the aim of charging journalists with contempt of parliament.

The anger in Parliament followed reports that parliament had budgeted sixty eight million shillings as burial expenses in case a Member died.

The media also reported that Parliament had sent 78 legislators to attend the 2016 Uganda North American (UNAA) Convention.

The rules Committee is provided for under Rule No.149 of the Rules of Procedure.

It is mandated by order of the House -

(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.

(c) to review these Rules from time to time and to make such recommendations to the House for amendment as the Committee considers necessary for the satisfactory functioning and efficient transaction of the business of the House and its Committees.

(d) to examine and advise the House on amendments proposed to these rules, by Members or other Committees of the House.

and (e) to carry out such other functions as are conferred by these Rules or as the House may assign it.

Membership comprises of 20 MPs designated by Party Whips on the basis of proportional Party representation in the House taking into consideration the interests of Independent Members.

This is the first time that the Committee is summoning non-Parliamentarians to appear for disciplinary action or contempt of parliament.

The summoning of editors appears to be the climax of the standoff between the institution of Parliament and journalists accredited to cover parliament and its committees.

In 2013, Speaker Rebecca Kadaga suspended journalists David Tash Lumu and Sulaiman Kakaire for allegedly writing critical articles. The two journalists sued the parliamentary commission. The suspension was overturned by High Court judge Justice Yassin Nyanzi.