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MPs to journalists: Stop blackmailing us

Journalists at work

Journalists at work

Kalangala District Woman MP Helen Nakimuli has expressed concerns over corruption within the fourth estate, where some journalists write false stories about members of parliament to extort money from them.

“Most of the journalists are bought off, most of their media houses are bought off, and they don’t publish stories the way they are supposed to be published. I have been told that some of you [journalists] blackmail some MPs by writing false stories about them to extort money from them,” she said during a parliamentary press plenary organized by the Uganda Parliamentary Press Association (UPPA) at Ureka hotel in Kampala.

The event was themed “Empowering Democratic Governance, Citizen-Centric Parliament, Information Access, and Press Freedom in Uganda.”

Nakimuli explained that when journalists write false stories against MPs and the MPs complain, the journalists demand money, such as Shs 2 million, to retract the story.

“Don’t expect an MP that you blackmailed or wrote a false story about to fight for your rights like free press or minimum wage. But for me, even if you write false stories about me, I won’t give you [journalists] any money. I know you do this due to poor pay. But let’s keep professional ethics since we need each other,” she said.

Nakimuli described a corrupt journalist as someone who engages in unethical practices such as accepting bribes, distorting facts, or fabricating stories for personal gain.

“This behavior compromises the integrity and credibility of journalism, violating principles of accuracy, objectivity, and transparency,” she said. She requested the government to ensure journalists are paid fairly, as they are crucial to governance in Uganda.

“I request journalists to stay professional, and not be compromised at the cost of people, family, and this country since you are supposed to give voice to the people and keep the government in check,” she said.

Nakimuli also advised MPs to fight for people’s rights and work towards establishing a minimum wage bill to ensure fair treatment for all workers.

Richard Sebamala, MP for Bukoto Central, also advised journalists to fight for their rights and protest against the government for a better minimum wage.

“I have never seen journalists fighting for their rights, like free press, coming out with banners protesting against poor pay, going to Uganda Communications Commission (UCC) requesting for their rights. Nobody will fight for you. It has to begin with you,” he said.

Apollo Tusiime, secretary general of UPPA, explained that the nature of journalists’ work prevents them from protesting because many work for private media companies that can terminate their contracts if they protest against the government.

“This is why we can’t do it (protest) ourselves and request people like MPs to fight for our rights in Parliament,” he said.

Sebamala assured journalists that MPs would join their fight for rights if journalists also voiced their own concerns.

“If you [journalists] fight for others’ rights, why can’t you fight for yourselves? I will raise your issues in parliament as you want it to be, but you have to help me and we work together,” he said.

Nakimuli also urged MPs to ensure the whole country gets free internet services to improve businesses, citing examples from other countries such as Rwanda.

“If you go to Rwanda deep in the rural areas, you find free internet in restaurants and other busy areas, allowing people to enjoy it and run their businesses smoothly online. But in Uganda, you can’t find free internet anywhere yet it’s budgeted for,” she said.

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