Ambassador Teferi’s Remarks at the IOHR Webinar on Media Reform and Press Freedom in Ethiopia

29 Apr 2021

Ahead of World Press Freedom Day, the Embassy in collaboration with the International Observatory of Human Rights (IOHR), Ethiopian Digest, and the Ethiopian Institute for Leadership, Communication and Organization (EILCO), hosted a webinar on 29 April focusing on press freedom in Ethiopia. The webinar was held under the theme, “A Booster Shot for Media Freedom in Ethiopia.”

In 2019, Ethiopia was the host of World Press Freedom Day in acknowledgment of the government’s commitment to media freedom. Two years later Ethiopia has seen a pandemic of fake news, disinformation, election fever, and insurrection.

This webinar sought to examine:

  • If Ethiopia can build up enough immunity to ensure its foundations for media freedom are underpinned by strong institutions
  • If journalists, media, and internet platforms can commit to professional ethics to build trust and transparency to inoculate against fake news
  • The role of the international community in supporting the recovery of media freedom to deliver information as a common good

Speakers included:

  • Kanbar Hossein-Bor – UK Coordinator of the Media Freedom Campaign UK Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office.
  • Jeremy Dear, Under-Secretary-General for the International Federation of Journalists.
  • Yonatan Tesfaye – Deputy Director General of Ethiopian Media Authority
  • Fasika Tadesse – Ex-Editor-in-Chief, Addis Fortune
  • Mihret Aschalew – Project Manager- PRIMED, BBC Media Action
A recording of the event is available on Ethiopian Digest’s YouTube page.

The following is Ambassador Teferi’s remarks at the conclusion of the event.

——

[check against delivery]

Thank you, Chair.

Allow me to start by expressing my profound gratitude to the distinguished panellists for their insights and thank the International Observatory of Human Rights, Ethiopian Institute for Leadership, Communication and Organization, and Ethiopian Digest, for organizing such an important and timely forum on the ongoing reforms to the media landscape and their role in promoting press freedom in Ethiopia, on the eve of World Press Freedom Day.

Excellencies, Ladies, and Gentlemen,

Since the historic transition in 2018, which ushered into power the reforming Government of Dr. Abiy Ahmed, Ethiopia has been engaged in a raft of political, economic, and social reforms aimed at the realisation of a true democratic order in the country.

As has been rightly noted by the panellists, 2018 was a remarkable year for press freedom in Ethiopia, as elucidated by the Prime Minister in his inaugural speech to Parliament following his appointment to lead the country.

In his remarks, the Prime Minister underlined the critical need to respect all human and democratic rights, especially those of freedom of expression, and match these words with the unprecedented decision to free all prisoners of conscience, including journalists, bloggers, and social media activists, while unbanning over 264 media outlets and websites that had previously been restricted.

Moreover, the new leadership demonstrated its commitment to ensuring press freedom by introducing comprehensive legal and institutional reforms. Accordingly, the repressive laws previously covering media activity have since been revised, and these changes have laid the foundation for a free press to flourish again in Ethiopia.

As we all recall, in recognition of these bold steps taken to enhance media freedom, Ethiopia was chosen to host the 2019 World Press Freedom Day. It was reassuring to note that Ethiopia’s efforts to effectively ensure the right to freedom of expression had been duly recognized by the international community.

The Government of Ethiopia has no misconception that a free, independent, and responsible media, augmented by the workings of citizen journalism, is an imperative prerequisite for building a viable democratic political order. However, it is also important to highlight that freedoms come with responsibilities. We need to ensure that the opening up of the media space does not facilitate misinformation, the spread of hate speech, and fake news.

It is sad to note that much of the international media coverage of the current situation unfolding in Ethiopia is dominated by outlets, engaged unwittingly in the spread of misinformation and whose reporting has consistently failed to meet the journalistic standards they champion. In our view, this has only affirmed the need for a strong and vibrant domestic media in our country, able to independently report on events on the ground while retaining a stake in the future of Ethiopia.

As Ethiopia stands at a crossroads in its efforts to build a more pluralistic and prosperous society, I earnestly call upon the international community to be cognisant of the misleading reports on Ethiopia currently circulating. Now is the time for our international partners to stand in solidarity with ordinary Ethiopians in condemning any action that would seek to reverse the hard-fought gains of the transition and also build the capacity of media institutions and government bodies that overseas media reform to nature the reform in this sector.

I thank you!

—ENDS—

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