Last week’s events touching on the Judiciary are nothing to be proud of. The media that prides itself to be independent and courageous was found napping.
Following the now challenged appointment of one judge as Deputy Chief Justice of the Republic of Uganda, all the media houses and their editors except The Observer, went into hiding in the same way the registry and court officials at the Constitutional Court hid or ran away from justice and the rule of law when two deeply concerned citizens wished to file a petition.
The right to have access to court and file a complaint is an unalienable and binding right enshrined in this country’s Constitution. That the officials of the Constitutional Court chose or were directed to obey illegal orders en masse will be forever remembered as one of the unprecedented and infamous episodes in the jurisprudence of this country.
Following the lockup of intending litigants from justice, the brave and undaunted would-be petitioners called a press conference which was heavily attended by members of the media.
They included well-known and hitherto self-proclaimed knights of the press. The petitioners and their lawyers boldly and eloquently revealed everything that was constitutionally and legally wrong. Ugandans who had heard and been shocked by what the radio and television had reported, expected headlines and exciting commentaries about these sad events.
They certainly believed that the short press release by the petitioners and their lawyers signed and received by all media and daily newspapers would be widely published, especially as the press conference ended before lunch. They expected heated debates and interviews of those concerned, including judges, lawyers and members of the public.
To everyone’s surprise, none of the so-called popular newspapers reported or said a word about this historical conference on that day. Enquiries from journalists of different news vendors revealed different versions of why this particular information of great public importance was concealed by the newspapers from the public.
Most explanations were inaccurate or deliberate lies. To use a common word they were lies. One journalist said the conference report came out too late to be included on the items to be published the next day. This, of course, was not true since all the newspapers Ugandans read that morning included reports of events that occurred after One O’clock of that day.
Another report was that the journalists who attended the conference were not facilitated by the petitioners or their lawyers. Perhaps this implied envelope journalism. The more credible story was by a friendly journalist who recited history with the famous remark of a General to a President that “you live in Jerusalem but you do not know what happens there.”
This particular journalist confided that many newspaper editors, journalists and reporters enjoy remuneration from two sources. Their employers pay them to collect and report national and international news. The corrupt and abusers of office pay them to kill or omit true stories that would widely damage the paymasters and mistresses. The last reason given is, this was a cue for Daily Monitor to do likewise presumably under the adage that better late than never.
Courageously on Wednesday, The Observer reported the outrageous incident, intimidation and fear. If anyone is inflicted with this disease, one should know it is curable but if it is already incurable, nothing is more damaging than fear.
Later still, some unashamed spokespersons of the Constitutional Court lied again by disclosing that the reason why they had fled the petitioners and their lawyers was because the petitioners did not have money for filing their case.
No sane person can believe this excuse. If a litigant or a petitioner does not have the requisite filing money, you request or demand that it be paid. No one will ever believe you if you tell a foul falsehood that you ran away like hell because a litigant had no money to pay for filing his or her case. You simply condemn your soul both on this earth and in hell.
Prof Kanyeihamba is a retired Supreme Court judge. firstname.lastname@example.org