Parliament committee Recalls Media Houses

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Parliament committee on Rules, Privileges and Discipline has sent out yet fresh summons to editors of three media houses requiring their appearance over alleged negative reporting of the legislature.

In the fresh summons sent to Uganda Radio NetworkThe Observer and The Red Pepper, the committee does not address issues of jurisdiction recently raised by the lawyers representing the media houses.

Instead, it insists on demanding the appearance of editors, warning them that this is the “last and final” chance for them.

In the committee letter dated October 18, 2016, Kenneth Ongalo-Obote, the chairperson of the committee requires the appearance of editors on Wednesday October 26, 2016.

Article 90 (4) of the Constitution provides that in the exercise of their functions, committees of parliament may call any Minister or any person holding public office and private individuals to submit memoranda or appear before them to give evidence.

Rule 197 of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament stipulates the special powers of committees one being powers of the high court to enforce the attendance of a witness, compelling production of documents, citing any person for contempt and others.

However, Uganda Radio Network-URN and the The Red Pepper have recently come out to note that they did not receive the first committee summons reportedly made on September 28, 2016.

On the last two committee summons, The Observer and URN through their lawyers Isaac Semakadde and Ladislaus Kiiza Rwakafuuzi questioned the jurisdiction of the committee to summon editors to appear before it to clarify matters falling within their editorial discretion.

MEANWHILE In a phone interview with the Rules committee Vice Chairperson Abbas Agaba, he said that the editors are hiding under the law and that his committee is equally acting under the law.

He said that his committee decided to invite editors from different media houses again in a bid to give them chance.

MP Agaba noted that in law, it is better one appears and expresses their displeasure than ignoring summons.

Agaba declined to divulge the possible action of the committee in case editors skip the fresh summons sent saying that the legal procedure would be the most likely line of thought.

The summonses were prompted by complaints from Members of Parliament, bothered by media coverage of lavish expenses.

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 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.

The Red Pepper is wanted 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.

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