By Julius Odeke
The Uganda Journalists Union (UJU) has strongly condemned the suspension of two Parliamentary Journalists by the Speaker of Ugandan Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga.
The Observer reporters, David Tash Lumu and Sulaiman Kakaire, were on January 28 suspended indefinitely after the Speaker said they published false reports on her and Deputy Speaker, Hon Jacob Oulanyah. This comes after the parliament spokesperson Helen Kawesa said in a Jan 28 letter to Observer Editor Richard Kavuma that the journalists filed “inaccurate” articles which are damaging to the office and persons of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker.
As a result the office of the Speaker has decided to suspend the two journalists indefinitely for “flouting rules and guidelines” that govern Parliamentary media coverage. Uganda Journalists Union President Lucy Anyango Ekadu said the Right Honorable Speaker cannot be the aggrieved person complaining about the Journalists, the prosecutor and judge at the same time. “The Speaker is a Lawyer who knows she cannot judge herself in a case against her without the accused being given chance to defend themselves.“
Ekadu said whereas the Speaker has a right to complain, she cannot judge and punish journalists without giving scribes a fair hearing to defend them, and to prove the validity of the facts. She said: “As a Custodian of Laws in the country the Speaker is highly respected as far as Justice and Human Rights are concerned, and should therefore unconditionally rescind her decision”. Ekadu said if the speaker is convinced she has been defamed then she is at liberty to address her complaint with the Media Council or even seek Legal Redress in courts of Law.
The suspension of the two journalists has been condemned by both local and international Lawmakers, civil society and journalists. They have termed the decision as a move to intimidate, suppress and muzzle independent but critical journalism.