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Parliament Issues Fresh Summons to Editors

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Summoned media houses include Uganda Radio Network and The Observer. They are wanted to appear before the committee on October 18 to clarify their publications about parliament, according to the letter signed by committee chairperson Clement Ogalo Obote. It is dated October 10, 2016.
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The rules, discipline and privileges committee of Parliament has sent fresh summons asking heads of various media houses to explain the cause of ‘unbalanced reporting' of the legislature.

Summoned media houses include Uganda Radio Network and The Observer. They are wanted to appear before the committee on October 18 to clarify their publications about parliament, according to the letter signed by committee chairperson Clement Ogalo Obote. It is dated October 10, 2016.

“In accordance with article 90 of the constitution of the Republic of Uganda and rule 163 (1) of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament of Uganda… the matter of unbalanced reporting by the media and broadcast was referred to the committee of Rules, Privileges and Discipline,” the letter reads.

It adds “In light of the above, therefore, the committee hereby summons you to appear on Tuesday October 18, 2016. You will be expected to clarify on your publications about parliament.”

The summonses were prompted by complaints from members of parliament, irked by media coverage of lavish expenses on the legislators. Notable among the issues was the 150 million Shillings car grant, a planned expenditure of 68 million Shillings as burial expenses for each legislator, and the trips to the Ugandan North American Association (UNAA) conventions in Boston, Massachusetts and to Los Angeles California.

Parliament is disputing a report published by URN indicating that over 2 billion Shillings was spent to facilitate 78 members of Parliament to attend the two conventions. The Observer is wanted to explain a story; Parliament shuts down for USA trip, published on September 2, 2016.

Initially Red Pepper had also been summoned to explain a publication by its sister newspaper 'Kamunye' with a montage of legislators depicted as pigs but the three media houses shunned the directive.

URN and Red Pepper, said they had not received summons to the committee while The Observer questioned the jurisdiction of the committee saying it did not have a mandate to summon editors to appear before it to clarify matters falling within their editorial discretion.

A letter authored by lawyer Isaac Semakadde on behalf The Observer News Editor Robert Mukasa stated that the letter summoning the editor was vague and invasive of the media house's editorial independence.

However, on the said day, only New Vision, represented by Barbara Kaija, the Editor-in-Chief and editorial overseer of Vision Group publications and broadcast platforms honored the summons. She was accompanied by John Kakande, the Editor in charge of New Vision and the company Legal Officer Tonny Raymond Kirabira.