Journalists in court over closed vetting sessions

Two journalists have petitioned the Constitutional Court challenging rule 153(2) of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament that grants that the proceedings of the appointments committee be closed to the press and general public.

Mr Simon Kaggwa-Njala and Mr Sulaiman Kakaire alongside Legal Brains Trust Ltd, a legal aid service provider, filed their petition before court on Friday.

The journalists, in their petition, contend that vetting of high ranking people behind closed doors denies the public opportunity to scrutinise their leaders.

“The impugned rule conceals the process through which high ranking public officials are sought, vetted and approved and thus disempowers the public from effectively knowing about, scrutinising and participating in the appointment of individuals who will make decisions affecting their rights contrary to Article 38 (1) of the Constitution,” the petition reads in part.

The complainants argued that during vetting of presidential appointees, journalists only learn of what transpires in the appointments committee room through well-wishers who attend the proceedings and volunteer information.

They argued that the kind of information they receive is skewed, which is a disservice to the public.

The Presidential appointees who mainly appear before this committee for vetting as demanded by the Constitution include judges, Cabinet ministers, the IGG, the Chief Justice, the Deputy Chief Justice, heads of commissions and statutory authorities.

The journalists also claim that this arrangement impinges on the practice of democratic governance in the country as it denies the public and the press an opportunity to observe, scrutinise and participate in the crucial decision making process of Parliament.

The petitioners want court to quash Rule 153(2) of the Rules of Procedure of Parliament, saying it is unconstitutional.

They also want court to issue an order directing Parliamentto grant them access to all the transcripts of the proceedings of the appointments committee that have been before the 9th Parliament since the coming into force of the rule.

They further want a court order directing Parliament to avail them with the audio and visual recordings of the proceedings that have been conducted by the 9th Parliament ever since the rule came into force.

By press time, the Attorney General, who is the respondent in the petition, was yet to respond to the issues raised by the journalists before a date for pre-trial

awesaka@ug.nationmedia.com

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