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Uganda27 August 2003

Lawyers banned from appearing in the media

Reporters Without Borders protested today against a ban by the Uganda Law Council on lawyers appearing in the media without its permission and called for the measure to be dropped.

Council chairman Elijah Wante told the press freedom organisation the aim was to prevent lawyers from "misusing the media" and "misleading the public" and that the only public stance permissible was that of the Council.

"This ban is an arbitrary restriction on media activity, preventing coverage of news of the judiciary or reporting unauthorised remarks by lawyers," Reporters Without Borders said in a letter to Francis Ayume, the Attorney General. "It is normal to want to protect legal confidentiality and the smooth running of the legal system, but this more general measure is unreasonable and an act of pure censorship that obstructs the freedom to inform the public and to be informed."

The ban was contained in a Council directive on 22 August, recalling its regulation 22 (from 1977) which forbade lawyers to write articles, speak to the media or make any other media appearance without the express permission of the Council, an official regulatory body which registers all lawyers and can suspend or deregister its members.

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