By Mirembe Martina
The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga was yesterday criticized for banning journalists wrongfully and not following the rule of law.
Two journalists from The Observer, Mr. Tash Lumu and Mr. Sulaiman Kakaire, were on January 28 suspended indefinitely from Parliament after allegedly publishing falsehoods about the speaker herself and the deputy Speaker, Jacob Oulanyah.
Ms. Kadaga was criticized by lawmakers, civil society activists and journalists denounced the Speaker’s decision as “an attack on independent journalism”. Mr. Mathias Mpuuga counseled that “the Speaker must realise that leadership at the top end avoids emotive reactions over matters she would otherwise handle like a national leader.”
“Nobody will understand her emotions. The media like politicians make errors, but is central in the conduct of public affairs for which Parliament is set aside. We cannot engage in reprisals every time we disagree on an issue,” Mr Mpuuga said.
According to a letter dated January 28th, to the Observer editor, Richard Kavuma, the journalists filed “inaccurate” articles which it said “are damaging to the office and persons of the Speaker and Deputy Speaker.” The letter was from the Office of the House Clerk, but signed by Parliament’s Spokesperson Helen Kawesa.
Ntenjeru South MP Patrick Nsanja reminded the speaker that the Supreme Court in 2004 struck down the law on publishing false news with Judge Joseph Nyamihana Mulenga. He observed that banning the journalists was unconstitutional to the extent that it curtailed the right to freedom of expression.
Mr. Godber Tumushabe, a lawyer and the executive director at the Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment, said the speaker’s ban showed the intolerance of the country’s leaders. “What the Speaker has done is clearly consistent with the growing intolerance of criticism by our leaders. I know the Speaker as a respected leader who has always stayed above the fray. It’s therefore disappointing that she would take that kind of extra-judicial action.”