By Max Patrick Ocaido
PARLIAMENT. Members of Parliament have clashed with staff in the department of Communication and Public Affairs (CPA) prompting the latter to block all press conferences organized without their consent.
On Tuesday, MPs sitting on Uganda Parliamentary Forum on Media were slated to address a press conference at Members' Lounge in Parliament on the continuous molestation and harassment of journalists. Indeed, by 10am, the MPs led by Paul Amoru (Chairperson) and other members; Francis Mwijukye and Kato Lubwama were ready to address the media but they were advised by CPA's Moses Bwalatum, Principal Information Officer that there was no need for them [MPs] to mobilize journalists to cover their press conferences without informing CPA whose mandate among others includes the same.
The meeting that was slated for 10am was later on called off with some MPs of the Forum saying "the meeting has been called off after orders from above."
In a private press conference conducted in his office, MP Amoru, who is also the vice chairperson of the committee on ICT however denied that CPA blocked their press conference, but admitted that they called it off themselves for not coordinating with CPA.
"Parliament is an institution and whereas each member has a right to call for a media meeting, we have noticed that we have at times been doing so without coordinating with the media department at Parliament. Most times we just wake up and call for a press conference and this makes it difficult to coordinate by allocation of room to avoid clashes. Whereas this is no official communication from CPA about our press conference being blocked, I met with Moses [Bwalatum] who said there was no need for us to invite media, but rather we should simply brief CPA who will on our behalf invite media to cover our meeting," Amoru said.
"On that premise, we agreed to respect institutions and call off the meeting. I am the chairperson of the forum, I don't know anyone who has blocked the meeting but I am aware of concerns [from CPA] to have such meetings coordinated," he added refuting reports that their meeting was blocked.
In an interview, Chris Obore, Director, CPA said that whereas he is not aware of the MPs' blocked press conference, there is need to respect institutions for effective service delivery.
"My personal view is that press conferences in parliament must be coordinated but most times, we as a department in charge of communication are not even informed. It shows less respect for an institutional approach to public affairs yet we all talk about collapse of institutions. Who will build them if we don't want to work in a structured manner? Sometimes even the Speaker or Clerk is not aware of the press conferences yet some of the issues in these conferences have a bearing on parliament image," Obore said.
Several times, Obore has warned journalists against organizing press conferences on behalf of his fully fledged directorate.
Meanwhile, Amoru proceeded to address the media in a private room where he lashed at security organs for continuously attacking journalists. He vowed to use the parliamentary forum and other human rights defenders to protect the rights of journalists and further urged journalists through their different fora to petition the parliamentary forum on media to address their challenges.