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Parliamentarians call for laws to curb media sensationalism

The front view of  Uganda's Parliamentary building in Kampala.

The front view of Uganda’s Parliamentary building in Kampala.

Members of parliament called for tougher laws to curb inaccuracies and sensationalism carried in the media against parliament. MPs, who were reacting to a communication from Speaker Rebecca Kadaga during plenary said media houses were abusing their freedom of expression. In her communication, Speaker Kadaga said several publications and broadcasts were meant to ridicule and tarnish the image of Members of Parliament.

Media reports that made mps angry  were on on funds budgeted for MPs’ funerals, motor vehicles, and inaccurate reports that 78 members were facilitated by Parliament to attend the Uganda North American Association (UNAA) Convention held in the US at a cost of  2 billion shilling. Kadaga said that parliament going to issue sanctions to  editors will be called here to explain what they published, and apologized to the country.
The Speaker instructed the Committee on Rules, Privileges and Discipline to examine the said publications and reports with a view of charging the media houses with contempt of Parliament. Aruu county mp Samuel Odonga Otto advocated for aggrieved MPs go to courts of law but warned Members against ridiculing colleagues on international duty and recommended that those cited be referred to the Committee on Rules. Busiro south Peter Sematimba  said the Electronic Media Act and the Press and Journalists Act were weak on the media and journalists and needed to be strengthened to put discipline into the media field. Mubende municipality  Anthony Ssemuli (NRM, Mubende moved that Parliament amends the laws governing local content and media institutions so as to make media houses and journalists accountable under oath. Usuk mp  Peter Ogwang  said it’s only in Uganda that freedom of the media is abused.
Minister of state for housing Chris Baryomunsi  asked the Parliamentary Commission to strengthen guidelines on media coverage of Parliament and to provide a budget for capacity building for journalists.
Furthermore the woman member of  MP for Butaleja district  Milly Mugeni says that throwing out the bill which was seeking to extend retirement age for judicial officer and commissioners of the electoral commission  by parliament was a measure to give  youth hope for employment in government. The bill by Nakifuma county MP Robert Kafeero Sekitoleko was seeking to increase the time of tenure for the judges from 60 to 75 years which some  MPS argued that it was not good for a poor country like Uganda.

Speaking to journalists at Parliament, Mugeni said that many youth leave school without jobs and therefore keeping judges to very old age would increase unemployment levels in the country.mShe however advised that since they are useful, they should instead do consultancy work and leave others to take up the jobs they have been
doing. Parliament indefinitely differed a motion by MP Kafeero Ssekitoleko seeking to amend the Constitution to increase the Retirement age for judges, and also remove term limits for Commissioners of the Electoral Commission (EC).
Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga directed that the motion by Ssekitoleko to seek leave of Parliament to draft the Constitution Amendment Bill should be shelved until government brings an omnibus bill to handle all constitutional amendments all at once.

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