Uganda: Journalists without degrees banned from parliament

By Godfrey Olukya
Posted on Thursday, 14 January 2016 16:08

Ugandan journalists have protested the move and have threatened court action. A majority of journalists covering parliamentary affairs only hold college certificates and diplomas, with only a handful having degrees.

After all some MPs do not even have degrees

The ban follows a letter dated 11 January and signed by the director in charge of finance and administration in parliament, Okello Obabaru saying journalists assigned to the legislature must meet a number of requirements, including holding a bachelors degree and having practiced journalism for at least three years.

Rogers Damba, a senior reporter at parliament, questioned why journalists without “degrees were being marginalised”, when most members of parliament do not hold degrees, but this had not stopped them from doing their work efficiently.

“It is absurd that journalists without degrees are being sent away. Some of them are even better than those with degrees. After all some MPs do not even have degrees,” Onyango Kakooba, an MP and former journalist said.

Despite opposition parliamentarians fighting in the same corner with journalists, parliament’s communication manager, Chris Obore insists that all those without degrees should leave.

“We want journalists with degrees because we believe they are the ones who can ably follow the debate in parliament and report appropriately to the public,” he said.

Several media organisations have since received letters addressed to their editors asking them to forward the names of parliamentary affairs correspondents, who must be hold a Bachelors degree in journalism, communication or related field with required experience in journalism.

The letters require that the editors submit the names of journalists, accreditation forms and degree transcripts to the director of communication and public affairs, Chris Obore before 25 January.

The letters also say that parliament reserves the right to grant or withdraw accreditation from an individual.

In 2015, a parliamentary commission attempted to get rid of a group of parliamentary reporters but the initiative was overturned by the Deputy Speaker of the House, Jacob Oulanyah.

In July last year, parliamentary reporters Sulaiman Kakaire and David Tash Lumu won a judicial review case against parliament, following their suspension from covering parliament in 2013 over what the Speaker deemed as “inaccurate” coverage.

In the ruling, Justice Yasin Nyanzi ruled the Speaker, through the clerk, acted illegally without the input of the disciplinary committee. The court also ruled that there is no offence under the law for publishing false news, it also said the action was tantamount to limiting media freedom.

The clerk and Speaker, the court further said, did not give any rationale reason for their decision under any law, making their ruling null and void.

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