Kampala, 04th / July / 2015; High Court in Kampala, on 03rd July 2015, nullified the Speaker’s dismissal of journalists Sulaiman Kakaire and David Tash Lumu from covering news in Parliament over a story titled ‘How Kadaga, Oulanyah fought over petition’ published in a local bi-weekly newspaper The Observer, on the 21st January 2013 edition which she said was none factual. Kadaga wanted the newspaper to retract the story and apologize to her or face suspension.
The duo, through their lawyer, Allan Mulindwa challenged the Speaker’s decision on ground that they were not heard. The story in question highlighted how the Speaker reportedly handled the petition which was signed by 127 lawmakers seeking a recall of Parliament to debate President Yoweri Museveni’s handling of the death of Butaleja Woman Member of Parliament Cerinah Nebanda, which they said amounted to an attack on the independence of Parliament.
In his ruling, Justice Yasin Nyanzi said that the duo was not heard before their suspension, “In the result, I find that the applicants’ right to a fair hearing was violated, and the decision made or passed in absence of a fair hearing ought to be quashed.” Adding that, “The decision made by the Parliament through the office of the Clerk to Parliament dated 28th, January, 2013 to suspend the applicants was ultra vires.” Justice Nyanzi ruled
The court also made an order stopping the Parliamentary Commission and the Clerk from denying the two journalist’s access to Parliament, “An order prohibiting the respondents from denying the applicants access to the precinct of Parliament.”
Lumu described the court victory as a landmark, “It’s a landmark judgment for journalists in Uganda especially those reporting in Parliament, media house and the entire media industry. It has made the standard very clear about the powers of politicians to intimidate critical reporters,” Lumu told HRNJ-Uganda. Kakaire welcomed the judgment saying that it will act as a protection for journalists covering in Parliament who are faced with intimidation from politicians”
“The Fourth Estate has prevailed. This means politicians can no longer use blackmail to lock out journalists from holding them accountable while in public offices,” the duo’ lawyer, Mulindwa said
“HRNJ-Uganda welcomes the court’s decision to protect journalists from political interference. Any person who has a complaint against a given journalist should petition the disciplinary committee of the media Council rather than misusing their offices selfishly to gang on the media.” Said the National Coordinator, Robert Ssempala
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)
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