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Lawyer wants parliament scribes case dismissed over time limit

By Farooq Kasule

Added 27th April 2016 07:32 PM

The journalistic body also seeks a court order to quash the directive of Obabaru dated January 11, 2016 purporting to fix minimum qualifications for journalists as part of the press accreditation process 10th parliament

Lawyer wants parliament scribes case dismissed over time limit

The Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga speaks to journalists during a media training workshop for parliamentary reporters at Parliament. She cautioned the media against inaccurate reporting, April 19,2016

The journalistic body also seeks a court order to quash the directive of Obabaru dated January 11, 2016 purporting to fix minimum qualifications for journalists as part of the press accreditation process 10th parliament

Parliamentary lawyer has asked court to dismiss a suit filed by journalists seeking to stop parliament from enforcing a directive denying journalists without degrees access to cover proceedings on grounds that it was filed out of time.

The case was filed by the Uganda Parliamentary Press Association (UPPA) president Agnes Nandutu and the association secretary Moses Kajangu who were also present in court to hear the proceedings.

Solomon Kirunda told court presided over by Justice Yasin Nyanzi that the journalist's case is barred by time limitation in light of the Speaker's (Rebecca Kadaga) directive of February 20, 2015.

"The application for judicial review was filed by journalists after the mandatory 90 days had elapsed after the decision was made, which is not permitted by the law," he argued.

Judicial review is the doctrine under which legislative and executive actions are subject to review by the judiciary.

He asked court to dismiss the application, saying it was improperly lodged in court by UPPA. He added that under the parliament powers and privileges, accreditation is for media houses and not for individual journalists.

Kirunda also argued that Parliament had never dealt with UPPA, which association has no ‘locus standi' to lodge an application in court.

"No evidence was adduced in court granting the applicant's company authority to stand for the journalists".

In law, standing or locus standi is the term for the ability of a party to demonstrate to the court sufficient connection to and harm from the law or action challenged to support that party's participation in the case.

Meanwhile, David Ojango asked court to strike -out the Attorney General (AG) from the judicial review application, saying it did not participate in the accreditation process.

"The AG did not involve in making decisions, directives that affects the applicants", Ojango who represented the AG said.

Sheila Namahe, a lawyer representing journalists argued that the applicant is the umbrella body of journalists who are affected by the impugned directives, adding that there therefore their clothed with sufficient standing in public law to prosecute the matter.

She submitted that there is no connection between Kadaga's  directive of February 20, 2015 and the subject matter of the present application comprised in the clerk's directive of January 11, 2016.

"The speaker's directive of February, 2015 targeted journalists with grey hair, those who had spent five or more years as accredited parliamentary reporters" Namahe said.

She added that the speaker's directive was implemented by the clerk to parliament Jane Kibirige and it resulted into a lawsuit by an aggrieved journalist Sulaiman Kakaire against the parliamentary commission pending ruling before Justice Benjamin Kabiito.

She maintained that the application is wholly with in the time limitation because both the clerks directive of January 11, 2016 and the one of Chris Obore of January 18 targets journalist without degrees and three years' experience.

"Both directives are presently under challenge in this application which was filed by the applicant on January 14, 2016."She argued.

However, Namahe said should court be inclined to agree with the respondents, that the application was filed out of time; she urged it to expand the time and allow the matter to proceed to trial, because the Judicial Review Rules allow for flexibility.

UPPA had dragged parliamentary Commission and the AG to court, seeking a declaration that they have no power to direct news editors on the job specification for journalists who are posted to cover parliament.  

The journalistic body also seeks a court order to quash the directive of Obabaru dated January 11, 2016 purporting to fix minimum qualifications for journalists as part of the press accreditation process 10th parliament.

Obabaru had on January 11, written to news editors of different media organizations, asking them to nominate graduates, with three years' experience, to cover parliamentary business. He contends that the speaker of parliament by law is authorized to issue such orders in her jurisdiction.

According to the proposed requirements, journalist's accreditation to cover Parliament will have to be renewed annually, unlike the case today where the accreditation covers Parliament's full five years.

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