Lwengo, 06th/April/2012; The local government leadership for Lwengo district has banned the councillors from speaking to the media on any matter regarding the council without the approval of the district council speaker, while the district chairperson George Mutabaazi has threatened to arrest a journalist over a news story.
The council resolution followed a news story ran on the Buganda owned Central Broadcasting Service (CBS) radio about the absence of both the Kabaka of Buganda(King) and President Yoweri Museveni’ portraits in the district council hall. The story was reported by the CBS correspondent for The Greater Masaka area Jimmy Ssekabiito. Ssekabiito is an Executive Board Member of the region’s journalists body South Buganda Journalists Association (SOBUJA).
The matter was raised during a council meeting by the district councilor representing Ndagwe Sub-county Abdul Kabugo Mugendawala and supported by the councilor for Lwengo Town Council Anthony Luwagga among others. The Woman Member of Parliament for Lwengo district Gertrude Nakabira attended the meeting and advised against the move to keep away the portarits.
The district chairperson George Mutabaazi was angered by the story and threatened to arrest and take action against Ssekabiito for reporting the story. The District Council Speaker Joe Walusimbi banned all councilors from talking to the media without prior permission from him on any matter about the district affairs.
The council also resolved that Kabugo apologises for passing on the story to the media. He was given up to one week to do so or risk a ban of not attending two district council meetings and forfeiting sitting allowances for the two meetings. Kabugo vowed not to heed to pressure and threatened to go to court if the council went ahead with implementing the resolution.
The portraits which raised the storm were however put in the council hall forth with. Efforts by HRNJ-Uganda to talk to Mutabaazi were futile.
SOBUJA vowed to resist the council resolutions of restricting reporting of news in the district to a chosen few journalists and banning of councilors from speaking to the media without prior permission.
“We are opposed to the resolution and will vehemently fight on until they are rescinded. We can’t let the politicians decide on who and how to report news from the district and which councilor should talk to us.” said the SOBUJA Secretary General Sadab Kitata Kaaya.
Ssekabiito re-affirmed that what he reported was factual and he was ready to defend himself at any time. “Mutabaazi said that he was looking for me. I don’t know what he wants to do, but am ready to defend my story because it was based on facts of what went on in the meeting.” He told HRNJ-Uganda.
This comes at a time when another CBS reporter for Kalangala district Ronald Ssembuusi is facing trial for alleged defamation when he reported that the former district chairperson Daniel Kikoola was being investigated for the disappearance of solar panel donated to the district.
“This is a very unfortunate decision by the district council. Its not in conformity with the recent parliamentary decision to allow the media carry their camera and other electronic gadgets to the press gallery to cover plenary sessions. We hope that the council rescinds this decision unconditionally. The council is made up of people’s representatives, so they need to be informed of whatever happens in the council, and it’s the media to play this noble role of holding the district leadership accountable. Any move to block the media would be leaving the voters ignorant of what happens in the district. We welcome the position taken by SOBUJA.” Said HRNJ-Uganda Programme Coordinator Wokulira Ssebaggala.
For More Information Contact;
Human Rights Network for Journalists-Uganda (HRNJ-Uganda)
Kivebulaya Road – Mengo Kampala Opp. St. Marcelino Pre. School
P.O.BOX. 71314 Clock Tower Kampala
Tel: +256-414-272934 / +256-414-667627