Ugandan Court revokes Speaker’s dismissal of Journalists from Parliament

July 8, 2015 OPINION/NEWS

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By

Robert Ssewankambo

The High Court in Kampala last week nullified the Speaker’s earlier dismissal of journalists Sulaiman Kakaire and David Tash Lumu from covering news in Parliament over a story entitled ‘How Kadaga, Oulanyah fought over petition published in the Ugandan bi-weekly newspaper The Observer, in January 2013.

Speaker of the House, Rebecca Kadaga stated the article in question was not true, requesting the newspaper retract the story and apologise to her or face suspension.

The duo, through their lawyer, Allan Mulindwa challenged the Speaker’s decision on the grounds that they were not heard. The story in question highlighted how the Speaker reportedly handled the petition which was signed by 127 lawmakers seeking a recall of Parliament to debate President Yoweri Museveni’s handling of the death of Butaleja Woman Member of Parliament Cerinah Nebanda, which they said amounted to an attack on the independence of Parliament.

In his ruling, Justice Yasin Nyanzi said that the duo was not heard prior to their suspension, “In the result, I find that the applicants’ right to a fair hearing was violated, and the decision made or passed in absence of a fair hearing ought to be quashed.” “The decision made by Parliament through the office of the Clerk to Parliament dated 28th January 2013 to suspend the applicants was ‘ultra vires’.” Justice Nyanzi ruled.

The court also made an order stopping the Parliamentary Commission and the Clerk from denying the two journalists access to Parliament, “An order prohibiting the respondents from denying the applicants access to the precinct of Parliament.”

David Tash Lumu described the court victory as thus: “It’s a landmark judgment for journalists in Uganda, especially those reporting in Parliament, media houses and the entire media industry. It has made the standard very clear about the powers of politicians to intimidate critical reporters,” he told Journalists at Court.

Sulaiman Kakaire welcomed the judgment saying that it will act as a protection for journalists covering in Parliament who are faced with intimidation from politicians”

“The fourth Estate has prevailed ,this means politicians can no longer use blackmail to lock out journalists from holding them accountable while in public offices,” the  duo’s lawyer, Mulindwa stated.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Robert Ssewankambo

Robert Ssewankambo is a Ugandan writer. Working currently on a freelance basis, he is a regular contributor to major newspapers in Uganda and electronic online magazines and media sources in Africa, such as the Bukedde newspaper, Hindered radio, Red Pepper, Eddobozzi newspaper and African Interest online.

For media enquiries, contact Robert at the following email address: sewankamborobert@gmail.com

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