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Journalists Warned Against Organising Press Conferences for MPs

A row has emerged between Parliament and journalists accredited to cover the House over convening press conferences for Members of Parliament. Parliaments Department of Communications and Public Affairs CPA issued a warning today against journalists convening press conferences for Members of Parliament, saying they are overstepping their boundaries.
Journalists interview Security Minister Elly Tumwine recently.
A row has emerged between Parliament and journalists accredited to cover the House over convening press conferences for Members of Parliament.

Parliament's Department of Communications and Public Affairs (CPA) issued a warning today against journalists convening press conferences for Members of Parliament, saying they are overstepping their boundaries.

According to a press statement, journalists accredited to parliament are not supposed to organise press conferences for MPs or any other group.

"We would like to remind you of your duties as Journalists accredited to cover Parliament, which do not include convening Press Conferences for MPs or any other group," the statement reads.

The communication further notes that although the journalists may have personal relations with Members of Parliament, it doesn't mean they should exercise functions that are not meant to be carried out by them.

"We are aware that some MPs may approach you for the same but advise them to liaise with the Department of Communications and Public Affairs, which is mandated to organise such events having established venue, and other administrative issues. There have been times where you have caused clashes at the venues of such meetings,'' the statement reads further.

Parliament warns that the actions of journalists could attract sanctions including but not limited to withdrawal of accreditation.

"You are also advised that for as long as these meetings take place in the precincts of Parliament, you have no business organising such meetings."

Isaac Imaka, the Uganda Parliamentary Press Association (UPPA) president, disagreed on the directive saying journalists' major role is information and they cannot stop attending to an MP who wants to address the press on urgent matters simply because of a notice by Parliament on protocol.

Imaka says MPs contact journalists because Parliament has not done its work in as far as letting the MPs know of the procedure of addressing a press conference.

"An MP comes and approaches you, let's go to the members lounge for a press conference, you cannot resist, you need the story. And if they are saying journalists have organised events that clash, let them organise a specific room for press conferences, where journalists know and also MPs know that it is the place to go for a press conference,"

Imaka suggested that a notice be written to all MPs and taken to their pigeon hole so that each MP can know the procedure of organising press conferences.

He also said that if the issue the Communication and Public Affairs Department of Parliament is trying to raise is that of ethical conduct like soliciting for money for organising press conferences, CPA should say that directly so that the matter is handled.

Ibrahim Ssemujju Nganda, the MP for Kiira Municipality, says that Parliament's department of communication is trying to be relevant. He says since MPs speak to journalists directly, it is unfair for Parliament to stop journalists from organising press conferences.

"Journalists have every liberty to seek to be addressed by MPs, you cannot say it should only be Parliament to organise press conferences, what if they are not around and an MP wants to speak on an urgent matter?" Semujju said.

Often times some journalists have convened press conferences on behalf of Members of Parliament. This includes members of Parliament asking journalists to convene the meeting for them, while in some cases journalists have advised MPs to hold a press conference in regards to a matter.