New freedoms to be consolidated
Ethiopia is not coloured red on the World Press Freedom Index map for the first time since the five colours began being used in 2013. Abiy Ahmed Ali, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 2019, allowed the many detained journalists and bloggers to be released as soon as he became prime minister in 2018. The new authorities also restored access to more than 200 news websites and blogs that had been blocked for years, and Ethiopian TV stations that are based abroad are now able to work freely. However, this initial progress has not yet been institutionalized and journalists are concerned that the winds of freedom could end up being no more than a passing breeze.
Draconian laws that affect the press, including the 2009 terrorism law, which was widely used to detain journalists, have still not been amended. On the contrary, the existing repressive legislative arsenal has even been reinforced by a law on hate speech and disinformation that was adopted in early 2020 during a wave of intercommunal violence. It provides for heavy fines and prison sentences and its vague wording allows a great deal of leeway for interpretation. Concern about a return to the past has been boosted by brief arrests of journalists, several Internet cuts and cases of intimidation. One general even threatened reprisals against any media outlets that “tarnish the reputation of the armed forces.”
110 in 2019
35.11 in 2019