MPs' Summons Undesirable - Vision Editor Top story

5122 Views Kampala, Uganda

In short
In its editorial report submitted to the committee seen by URN, the Vision Group editors said that the story US Convention Paralyses Parliament was a reasonable publication.

Barbara Kaija, the Editor-in-Chief and Editorial Overseer of Vision Group publications and broadcast platforms has faulted parliament for summoning editors over the recent publication of stories on the activities of the house.

Kaija was speaking to journalists this afternoon shortly after appearing before the Rules, Privileges and Discipline Committee of parliament. Kaija was accompanied by John Kakande, the Editor in charge of New Vision and the Vision Group Legal Officer, Tonny Raymond Kirabira.

They were summoned by the committee chaired by Kalaki County MP, Clement Ongalo-Obote to explain a story, which claimed that the Uganda North American Association-UNAA Convention Paralysed Parliament.

Kaija told journalists outside parliament that the fact that editors have to appear before a parliamentary committee to account for stories is undesirable in any country. 

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According to Kaija, during their meeting with the legislators, they discussed the challenges facing the media in the country and called for the establishment of an Independent Media Council protected by an act of parliament to regulate the media. 
 
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In its editorial report submitted to the committee seen by URN, the Vision Group editors said that the story "US Convention Paralyses Parliament" was a reasonable publication. They explained that they took reasonable steps to ensure the accuracy of the content since the publication was a matter of public interest.
 
The report further indicates that the story was fair and balanced since the side of parliament was adequately explained by Chris Obore, the Director Communications and Public Affairs.
 
The Committee chairperson Clement Ongalo Obote declined to divulge details of their meeting with the Vision Group editors, saying his committee will write its report and forward it to parliament for the next course of action.
  
Responding to The Observer Newspaper letter questioning the power of the committee to summon editors, MP Ongalo said that the Rules of Procedure empower the committee to handle any matter that infringes on the image of parliament.

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In his response to the summons, Isaac Semakadde, the lawyer of The Observer questioned the jurisdiction of the committee to summon editors to appear before it to clarify matters falling within their editorial discretion.
  
"Your letter summoning our client to appear before the committee on Wednesday October 5, 2016 at 10am is permissibly vague and invasive of our client's editorial independence, among other constitutional rights which you are oath bound to respect protect and promote", the Observer News Editor Robert Mukasa stated in a letter authored by lawyer Isaac Semakadde.
 
He however, couldn't explain why the editors of Uganda Radio Network-URN and The Red Pepper didn't receive the committee summons yet he dispatched them. Ongalo promised to follow up the matter and issue fresh summons. He also clarified that they didn't summon the editors of The Daily Monitor as had been reported, saying the committee didn't find any issues with the publication.
  
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The Independent Media Council of Uganda (IMCU)
In 2006, representatives from at least 42 media houses met in Entebbe to form what came to be known as the Independent Media Council of Uganda (IMCU). This was a result of a long campaign and consultative process to introduce in Uganda a self-regulatory mechanism for the media.

The objectives of the IMCU were, among others, to promote the growth of "a responsible, free media that adheres to the highest standards of journalism and to consider and deal with complaints about the conduct of the Media.

This put Uganda is in a unique situation of having two media councils, one statutory as provided for under the Press and Journalist Act 1995, and the other non-statutory.

Enforcing the IMCU activities has, however, been a challenge with lack of funding being one of the biggest obstacles.  

 

About the author

Olive Nakatudde
Olive Nakatudde is a URN journalist based in Kampala. Nakatudde has been a URN staff member since 2013.

Nakatudde started out in journalism in 2009 with Dembe FM radio in Kampala. In 2012, Nakatudde joined Voice of Africa as a political reporter. She has been a photographer since her journalism school days at Makerere University.

Nakatudde is interested in good governance and public policy, which she reports on intensively from the Uganda Parliament. She is a keen follower of cultural affairs in Buganda Kingdom and covers the kingdom's Lukiiko (parliament). Nakatudde also reports on education and health.