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MPs divided over editors’ summons

Last week, the parliamentary committee on Rules, Privileges and Discipline issued summons to news editors of four media organisations over what parliament termed as ‘negative’ reporting of the institution.

This development has already attracted criticism from civil society organisations, media practitioners and the academia. Josephine Namuloki sampled a few MPs and got their take on the contentious matter.

Mathias Mpuuga (DP-Masaka municipality)

These two entities, parliament and the media, need each other and there will always be disagreements between the two. We need to dialogue on how best we can work together. My view is that our duty at all times is to provide information to the public.

If the media misrepresent these positions, then I think parliament as an institution will have latitude to try and discuss these matters amicably with the media.

There is no need for us to work at loggerheads because while we [MPs] are held accountable, the media has the responsibility to act responsibly as well. So, that responsibility will start with ensuring that the information is available to the media from which they can write newsworthy stories. 

Margaret Muhanga (NRM-Burahya)

Everything about parliament has been demonized [by the media] even where MPs benefits are people’s entitlements. I was on the radio the other day explaining to the people that every job comes with its entitlements, with its privileges, allowances and salaries.

So, if you contest as an MP, there are those entitlements that come with the job. There are entitlements that come with the job of a permanent secretary and there are entitlements that come with a job of a president.

The media simply looks for just one sector of the society and you start demonizing it before the rest of the society. It doesn’t give a balanced mode of communication because first of all, they [media] are supposed to inform the population. So, the rules committee can ask some media houses why they want to demonize parliament all the time.

Alli Ismail Ogama (NRM-Lower Madi)

The truth of the matter is the media somehow has been giving wrong information [about parliament]. I believe the public relations department needs to link up with [the] media to give more clear information. You see, the issue of the money for burial was blown out of proportion yet it is only seven (7) MPs that will benefit from it just in case they die [during the five years of parliament]. 

On the issue of money for cars, the public needs to be sensitized to understand the purpose and the reason why MPs are given cars. However, I sill believe that the media should be allowed to do its work freely.

Gerald Karuhanga (Independent-Ntungamo municipality)

I think the issue between parliament and the media should be resolved amicably. We should have dialogue between the leadership of parliament and the media team here and resolve some few issues that may be arising as opposed to the investigative and impliedly punitive approach.

So, this is an impasse that can be resolved in an engagement process. I would persuade my colleagues to think in that direction of engagement rather than getting into unnecessary confrontations.                                        

Gaffa Mbwatekamwa (NRM-Kasambya)

I don’t think it’s in order for the right honourable Rebecca Kadaga to say that the committee on rules and privileges needs to investigate the conduct of media houses and the journalists at large.

First of all, I don’t think journalists are actually answerable to the parliament. So, if there is anything to do with the misconduct [of media], they would have looked for any relevant authority which can do some good work.

We [MPs] feel the media has inflicted some pain on us and then at the same time we are investigating them. Of course there will be a conflict of interest and we [parliament] will not dispense justice.

Fred Baseke (Independent-Ntenjeru South)

Yes, I support parliament’s decision to summon editors. Sometimes you people [journalists] report on things MPs don’t know.

I think it’s your responsibility as the media to cross check. We have the whole directorate of parliament on communication but sometimes you publish things which are not true and you know when you do that, you make the public turn against MPs.

Harold Tonny Muhindo (FDC-Bukonzo East)

First of all, I should say this war [between parliament and media] is uncalled for because I see the two institutions are complimentary. We all deliver information to the people using different channels. I therefore think that what would be better to understand what is supposed to be done right by either side.

Sometimes the media chooses to cover negative stories about parliament and ignore those that benefit the community.

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