Press Freedom: The Foundation of a Healthy Democracy

18 Apr 2019

Embassy hosts reception ahead of World Press Freedom Day Celebrations in Addis Ababa

The Embassy, in collaboration with the Ethiopian Institute for Leadership, Communication, and Organisation (EILCO) and the International Observatory for Human Rights (IOHR), hosted a reception on 16th April 2019, in commemoration of the upcoming World Press Freedom Day, scheduled to take place in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia from 1st to 3rd May.

Welcoming guests, Ambassador Fesseha Shawel expressed his pride in Ethiopia hosting such a major conference, which would offer an opportunity to celebrate the recent changes in the country. “Ethiopia wants to build the institutions that will enable us to enrich our democracy.”

“Without free press, democracy and change is unthinkable”

“We invite you to visit Ethiopia and see the reality on the ground…Praise us where we have done well and give us critical feedback where improvement is needed,” he said.

2018 was a year of transformational change, especially on press freedom. Under the administration of H.E Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed, thousands of political prisoners and journalists have been released, and for the first time in over a decade, there are no journalists or bloggers in prison. Diaspora media outlets that were previously banned, are also now free to operate in the country. Furthermore, revisions to key legislation related to press freedom and freedom of expression are currently being finalised.

Speaking on the occasion, IOHR Director, Valerie Peay said:

“Here we stand in 2019 with not a single journalist or blogger incarcerated, with a country that is going through the most incredible change and is offering a beacon to the rest of the world in what is possible.”

“We are very proud to be going to World Press Freedom Day in Ethiopia. For us, it is about taking the world and the world’s focus to Ethiopia and showing what has happened in Ethiopia,” she added.

Alastair King-Smith, Co-ordinator for the Global Campaign on Media Freedom at the Foreign and Commonwealth Office said the UK Government was delighted to be partnering with Ethiopia, the African Union and UNESCO over World Press Freedom Day because bringing this subject to Africa is showing by example and through what is happening in Ethiopia and the leadership being shown there, how best to champion world press freedom for the future.”

“It is only with a political will to change and showing the world what can be done differently, that we can actually transform things,” he said.

Mr King-Smith also highlighted the upcoming international conference on media freedom that will be held in London on 10th– 11thJuly, which the United Kingdom and Canada will co-host. Journalists, civil society and governments will participate in discussions about press freedom and the importance of defending the media against censorship, imprisonment, personal attacks and abuse.”

Bekele Woyecha, co-founder of EILCO, encouraged participants to visit, invest and write about Ethiopia. EILCO aims to bring together professionals from different backgrounds and experiences, looking for opportunities to take back to Ethiopia. “As British citizens of Ethiopian origin, we have a lot to contribute,” Bekele said. In Ethiopia, “we will host a panel discussion at the World Press Freedom Day conference, and have also organised a lecture at Addis Ababa University School of Journalism.”

Award-winning Egyptian journalist, Mohammed Fahmy, echoed the call for instating a UN special envoy dedicated to the safety of journalists and applauded the Ethiopian government for releasing hundreds of journalists. “Today is a day of celebration, without a free press there is no democracy,” he concluded.

For an exclusive interview with Ambassador Fesseha by IOHR TV, please visit:


For further information, please contact the press office on:

T: 020 7838 3883

 Notes to Editors:  

The 26th celebration of World Press Freedom Day is jointly organized by UNESCO, the Government of the Federal Democratic Republic of Ethiopia and the African Union Commission.

The main event will take place in Addis Ababa, on 1st– 3rd May at the African Union Headquarters. This year’s theme “Media for Democracy: Journalism and Elections in Times of Disinformation” discusses current challenges faced by media in elections, along with the media’s potential in supporting peace and reconciliation processes.

Journalists, activists, government representatives, and personalities from all over the world are expected to attend the event.

For further information about World Press Freedom Day, please visit

About IOHR

The International Observatory of Human Rights was established in 2017 in London as an independent non-profit and non-governmental organisation.

The team is made up of human rights professionals, lawyers, researchers, award-winning journalists and academics of diverse backgrounds and nationalities.

IOHR utilises its unique access and the expertise of its multilingual and dedicated staff to advocate for human rights worldwide.



 Established in 2019, the Ethiopian Institute for Leadership Communication and Organisation (EILCO) is the product of four British co-founders of Ethiopian origin who want to take their experiences, connections, relationships and interests back to their country of origin to support the changes taking place in Ethiopia.

EILCO aims to provide training, development and consultancy in Ethiopia in the fields of leadership, media, press and communication, public administration and civilian and military organisation.



VIDEO: Embassy Reception Ahead of World Press Freedom Day

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