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Editors snub Parliament summons

At least four media houses have shunned a meeting to appear before the parliament’s Rules, Discipline and Privileges committee over what MPs consider as negative coverage.

The editors of The Observer, Red Pepper did not appear before the MPs as demanded by the summonses issued last week. Only New Vision, represented by Barbara Kaija, the editor-in-chief and editorial overseer of Vision Group publications and broadcast platforms honoured the summons. She was accompanied by John Kakande, the editor-in-charge of New Vision and the company legal officer Tonny Raymond Kirabira.

Three of the other media houses; Uganda Radio Network (URN), Daily Monitor and Red Pepper said they had not received summons to the committee while 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.

The MPs on Rules, Discipline and Privileges committee waiting for the editors earlier today

In an interview this morning, the Daily Monitor managing dditor Charles Bichachi Odoobo, Red Pepper managing editor Ben Byarabaha and Wilson Kaija, the editor-in-chief of URN said they had not received formal invitations to the committee.

The committee is currently holding a closed door meeting with the New Vision editors. The editors were summoned last week to appear before the rules committee to explain the cause for ‘unbalanced’ reporting about parliament.

The summonses were prompted by complaints from members of parliament, irked by media coverage of lavish expenses of the August House on the legislators. Notable among the issues was the Shs 150m car grant, a planned expenditure of Shs 68m as burial expenses per legislator, and the trips to the Ugandan North American Association (UNAA) convention in Boston, Massachusetts and to Los Angeles California.

Parliament is disputing a report published by URN indicating that over Shs 2bn 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.

The Daily Monitor was summoned over a story about MPs burial expenses and another about the selection of a hotel owned by the Speaker Rebecca Kadaga to host a meeting by Inter-parliamentary Union (IPU-IGAD).  Red Pepper’s summonses stem from a publication by its sister newspaper ‘Kamunye’ with a montage of legislators depicted as pigs.

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