Though the Ethiopian press is much freer today than before Abiy took power, CPJ spoke to over a dozen journalists and rights defenders who said that challenges remain, including the risk of attack and arrest, and a proposed law that could curtail their newly found freedoms.
Significant progress has been made on media freedom in Ethiopia, though there’s still a reluctance to critique the government or ask difficult questions. Hate speech on social media is a serious and growing problem, although the government’s proposed hate speech law raises concerns it may be used to stifle legitimate expressions of dissent.
In just one month after declaring a state of emergency in the country – the second in two years – Ethiopian authorities arrested 5 journalists, all of whom have been imprisoned before.
Publisher of the Ethiothinktank blog, Seyoum Teshome was arrested on 9 March and his whereabouts are still unknown. CPJ is demanding his unconditional release.
The Ethiopian government deported British journalist William Davison after refusing to renew his accreditation. Davison had not hesitated to cover sensitive stories such as government corruption and the re-introduction of a state of emergency.
The African Freedom of Expression Exchange (AFEX) denounces the recent killing of protesters by security agents and calls on the authorities to ensure that citizens’ lives and rights are protected at all times.
Media freedom advocates celebrated the release of Ethiopian journalists Eskinder Nega and Woubshet Taye after almost six years of wrongful and arbitrary imprisonment. Their release comes on the back of sustained campaigning by organisations across the globe.
Journalist Eskinder Nega’s release on 8 February, along with 745 other prisoners being pardoned by Ethiopian President Mulatu Teshome, was overturned when he refused to sign a false confession that he was a member of a “terrorist group”. He was returned to his cell.
Despite the release of journalists Darsema Sori and Khalid Mohammed, Ethiopia’s use of imprisonment, harassment, and surveillance means that the country continues to be a hostile environment for journalists.
As the Ethiopian government prepares to release hundreds of detainees, including opposition politicians and political activists, Reporters Without Borders calls on the government to add three imprisoned journalists to the list of those about to be freed: Eskinder Nega, Woubshet Taye and Zelalem Workagegnehu.
Ethiopia’s ruling coalition has announced it would release political prisoners and close the infamous Maekelawi detention centre in Addis Ababa. While the government did not say how and when this would occur, doing so would be an important step toward ending longstanding political repression and human rights abuse in the country.
An internet shutdown in Ethiopa between 30 May and 8 June 2017 followed the imprisonment of Yonatan Tesfaye and Getachew Shiferaw, who were sentenced with “inciting anti-government protests” and “inciting violence” for criticising the government over Facebook.
The Ethiopian Federal High Court’s conviction of Getachew Shiferaw, editor of the news website Negere Ethiopia, on charges of inciting subversion is a further blow to press freedom in the country, the Committee to Protect Journalists said today.
Ethiopian journalist Eskinder Nega, imprisoned since 2011, has been named IPI’s 69th World Press Freedom Hero.