UGANDAN PARLIAMENT STEPS UP EFFORTS TO KEEP OUT NON-GRADUATE JOURNALISTS

KAMPALA, After the decision by the High Court here last week to put on hold the Ugandan Parliament's plan to bar non-graduate journalists from covering Parliamentary proceedings, the Parliament has now announced the withdrawal of office space for journalists with immediate effect.

The move was made in a memorandum from Chris Obore, a former journalist, who is now the House director of communication and public affairs to Parliament's Sergeant-of-Arms, Ahmed Kagoye.

The letter dated Jan 18, 2016, directs Kagoye to close the offices of the Uganda Parliamentary Press Association (UPPA), which had petitioned the court against the new university degree requirements for journalists who wish to cover House proceedings in in the 10th Parliament, beginning in May.

Entitled "Closure of UPPA Office", Obore argues that he who gives with one hand also takes away with another.

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

"I have verbally consulted the Rt. Hon. Speaker and Deputy Clerk about temporarily withdrawing office space which is currently being occupied by UPPA."

Last week the High Court put on hold Parliament's plan to bar reporters without degrees from covering proceedings of the legislature and its committees.

In a lengthy opinion in the media, Obore defended the degree requirement and vowed not to retreat or bow to pressure from media activists and human rights defenders in the country, who have criticized the move as fascist.

"The problem of quality of our journalism is well known and well-articulated by many senior journalists and other eminent people. However, other than knowing the problem, there appears to be little action from the media industry to address the problem. Instead, they are quick to condemn the options that others come up with," Obore wrote.

"So, Parliament has opted for a degree, instead of condemning; what is your practical solution to the problem of low quality? As Parliament, we are open to listening without giving away the right and privileges of the House. Someone always has to make a decision."

This is not the first time that parliamentary officials, including Speaker Rebecca Kadaga, are clashing with journalists. In 2013, parliament suspended journalists David Lumu and Sulaiman Kakaire over writing critical articles.

The two reporters sued the parliamentary commission and the suspension was overturned by High Court judge Justice Yassin Nyanzi.

Last year, parliament was again under scrutiny for attempting to place a ban on inexperienced journalists from covering the House

Source: NEW VISION

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