During a trip to Addis Ababa in January, it was impossible to miss the signs that Ethiopian media are enjoying unprecedented freedom. A flurry of new publications was on the streets. At a public forum that CPJ attended, journalists spoke about positive reforms, but also openly criticized their lack of access to the government. At a press conference, journalists from state media and the Oromia Media Network, an outlet previously banned and accused of terrorism, sat side by side.
Ethiopia, which was one of the most-censored countries in the world and one of the worst jailers of journalists in sub-Saharan Africa, has gone through dramatic reforms under the leadership of Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, who took office last April. In 2018–for the first time in 14 years–CPJ recorded no journalists behind bars in its annual census. And the country ended its block of over 260 websites and ban on media outlets forced to work in exile.
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, especially in restive regions; attracting advertisers in a market where businesses are wary of being seen to support critical publications; accusations of sowing divisiveness; and a proposed law that could curtail their newly found freedoms. […] CONTINUE READING