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May 11, 2022

ABA ROLI Convenes Colloquium for Judicial Officers in Uganda on Freedom of Expression and Media Rights

On Monday, April 25, the American Bar Association Rule of Law Initiative (ABA ROLI) East Africa office, in collaboration with the Judiciary of Uganda, the International Centre for Non-profit law (ICNL) as well as the Freedom of Expression Hub (FOE Hub) hosted a two-day residential judicial workshop on Freedom of expression and media rights. Exclusively designed for Magistrates from Uganda’s judicial system and one that is closest to the population—a total of 25 Grade one and Chief magistrates from the magisterial areas in the central, western and eastern magisterial areas were in attendance.

The objective of the Judicial Workshop was to discuss current trends in freedom of expression, access to information and digital rights, and how judiciaries in comparative jurisdictions have advanced, defended and promoted these rights. Particularly, the workshop covered topics on National, Regional and International standards, legal framework and jurisprudence on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information; Regulation of Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in the Digital Age: Emerging issues and Related Legislative and Judicial Responses; Principles of the Right to Access to Information & The Concept of "Open Justice; as well as Digital Rights and Access to Information and how participants are planning to approach the identified challenges going forward.

The pooling of subject-matter experts from the Judiciary, academia, civil society and legal practice guaranteed a deeper sharing of knowledge and practical experiences on relevant issues from a wider perspective .The training was facilitated by the Honorable Justice Geoffrey Kiryabwire, Judge of the Court of Appeal in Uganda and Vice President of the East African Court of Justice; Professor Fredrick Juuko, with 45 years as a law lecturer—first at Makerere University for 43 years and, since 2019, as Dean of Law at a privately owned Uganda Martyrs University, Nkozi.; Ms. Florence Nakazibwe, Legal Advisor for Africa from the International Center for Non-For-Profit Law (ICNL) and Ms. Catherine Anite, Media expert and member of the Independent High-Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom, an international High-Level Panel of Legal Experts on Media Freedom by Lord Neuberger, the former Supreme Court President of the UK; and Deputy Chair, UK Special Envoy on Media Freedom, Amal Clooney.

Lady Justice Damalie Lwanga opened the workshop, speaking on behalf of the Principal Judge and as Executive Director of the Judiciary Training Institute.

In the remarks, Justice Lwanga expressed enthusiastic commitment to holding continuous training of judicial officers as a sure way of strengthening their capacity to deliver justice, as well as a conviction that the judiciary has a constitutional duty to guarantee Freedom of expression and related rights. To be able to do this, the Principal Judge’ remarks noted that judicial officers need incremental skilling and some degree of innovation. 

Overall, the workshop witnessed fruitful engagement from participating judicial officers on the theoretical, normative, and practical aspects relating to freedom of expression, media rights, access to information and Privacy rights, including in the digital era. There was critical reflection on the role of judicial officers in fostering the realization of these rights. The Magistrates pledged to henceforth adjudicate disputes of the nature in a better fashion based on this exposure and recommended that more training sessions be rolled out to a wider audience of judicial officers both on FOE and media rights, “and more.” As way of follow-up to this engagement, ABA ROLI and its partner FOE Hub are developing a resource database on the law and practice of freedom of expression cases/jurisprudence to be freely accessible to the public and in particular judicial officers and members of the legal community. 

Learn more about ABA ROLI’s work across Africa.