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ARTICLE 19 building capacity of legal professionals on media law

(ARTICLE 19/IFEX) - 29 March 2010 - ARTICLE 19 has delivered a training workshop in Kenya on media law and freedom of expression for 30 lawyers, judges, prosecutors and state officials from Ethiopia and Kenya. This is especially relevant at a time when increasingly restrictive laws are being passed in Ethiopia to control civil society organisations and there are concerns about the Ethiopian government's commitment to freedom of expression in the country.

The training, organised last weekend in co-operation with several Kenyan media experts, emphasised the importance of concrete steps towards effective implementation of international freedom of expression obligations, as ratified by the Ethiopian government. The training also provided an overview of these international standards, and states' responsibilities to implementing them domestically.

Participants discussed topics including constitutional guarantees for freedom of expression in Ethiopia and Kenya, restrictions on freedom of expression in order to protect reputation and national security, broadcasting regulations, and freedom of information. Kenyan media experts also outlined challenges and problems of the process of adopting the new Constitution of Kenya and related provisions on freedom of expression.

The training aimed to ensure that participants improved their knowledge and capacity to work on freedom of expression cases locally. For example, a new legal framework on access to information needs to be implemented in Ethiopia and lawyers, judges and public officials will all be instrumental in such a process.

At the same time, ARTICLE 19 Kenya is planning to follow up on this initiative through further engagement in Ethiopia as well as in the region, in particular to play a role in strengthening the capacity of local stakeholders to promote and protect free speech.

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