Ethiopia’s new era of press freedom and it’s challenges

Little more than a year ago, Ethiopia was known as one of the world’s worst persecutors of journalists with the ruling Ethiopian People’s Revolutionary Democratic Front’s (EPRDF) tight grip leading to dozens of journalists being exiled, as others were imprisoned. But according to the press rights group, Reporters without Borders; months after the appointment of Abiy Ahmed as the prime minister, there was no journalist who was being held in jail with relation to their work for the first time in 14 years.

Last year, the prime minister made worldwide news when he released all journalists held in Ethiopian jails. The country also 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 a year ago, CPJ reports that challenges still 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.

The anti-hate speech draft legislation which is being prepared by the government is said to impose up to three years in prison for those found to be disseminating hate speech and fake news. The draft is met by splitting opinions, with some agreeing to it. Others fear the hate speech law could have a “chilling effect on freedom of expression.”