19 January 2016

Uganda: Journalists Booted Out of Parliamentary Office

Parliament has withdrawn office space from the Uganda Parliamentary Press Association, a move that threatens the relationship between journalists and the Parliamentary Commission.

The withdrawal was announced in a letter from Chris Obore, the Director of Communications and Public Affairs to the Sergeant-of-Arms Ahmed Kagoye. The letter dated January 18, 2016 directs the Sergeant-of-Arms, to close the offices of the Uganda Parliamentary Press Association (UPPA) with immediate effect.

"We are in the process of accrediting reporters to cover the 10th Parliament. We wrote to the editors to second journalists with degrees. However, some journalists have taken issue with our requirement for a degree and have gone to court," the letter reads.

Obore adds that he held a verbal consultation with the Speaker of Parliament Rebecca Kadaga and agreed to temporarily withdraw the office space, located in the East Wing of parliament until a good working relationship between Parliament and UPPA is restored.

The Sergent-at-Arms has advised members of UPPA to rid the office of all personal belongings before the directive is enforced. The directive comes three days after High Court issued an interim order halting a directive barring reporters without degrees from covering Parliament.

The Deputy Clerk to Parliament Okello Obabaru had on January 11, written to News Editors, asking them to nominate graduates, with three years' experience, to cover parliament. Hearing of the main case challenging the directive is set for January 28, 2016.

This is the second time that UPPA is booted out of parliament. The first time in June 2006, the then Clerk to Parliament, Aenes Tandekwire, advised journalists to find office space outside parliament due to the multi-party system that had squeezed space for the 8th parliament.

The office was then taken over by staff of the Hansard. Following a series of engagements, the association was granted an alternate office from where they have been operating over the last 10 years.

The office for UPPA was first provided during the seventh parliament when the then Speaker of Parliament Edward Kiwanuka Ssekandi, in consultation with the Parliamentary Commission granted a request from journalists under the umbrella body to have an office to ease their work.

Equipped with computers, internet, furniture and a link for streaming plenary proceedings, the office was a one stop center for journalists who used it to file stories direct to their media houses without the hustle of returning to their offices.


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