On 25 December 2019, the Prime Minister Office of Ethiopia with the support from UNESCO organized a one day dialogue as part of the Addis Wog Series on the role of the media in the transition which intended to reflect on the extent of the media in playing constructive roles in peace building and democracy in the country. Since early 2018, the government has taken a number of positive measures that opened up the space for the media to exercise its roles in society professionally without the control of the executive branch of the government.
Ethiopia stepped up 40 points in the global Press Freedom Index in 2018 following these government measures. UNESCO choose Ethiopia to host the 2019 Edition of the World Press Freedom Day in Addis Ababa in partnership with the African Union and UNESCO. On one of the prestigious events of the World Press Freedom Day, the Guillermo Cano World Press Freedom Prize ceremony- held on 02 May 2019 in Addis Ababa, to award the winners of the global press freedom hero, the PM, Dr. Abiy Ahmed cautioned that media freedom also requires professional responsibility.
“We need to ensure that the opening up of the media space does not facilitate misinformation, the spread of hate speech and fake news. The pivotal moment that Ethiopia is in right now to help into its true potential can only be realized when those who are tasked with a duty to inform are aware of the responsibilities that come with such freedoms.”
The Addis Wog dialogue was held roughly after one and half years of this opening up measures taken. On the event, more than 300 media stakeholders participated where the role of the media so far was debated and assessed.
To instigate debate among the participants on the dialogue, a three-month media coverage of mainstream and online media including social media was conducted by a professor from Addis Ababa University. The findings of the rapid assessment was presented at the beginning of the dialogue so that the discussion there after could be guided by it.
The report indicated that the media is short of supporting the transition through professional reporting and playing constructive roles in peacebuilding as the country was rocked by intergroup violence. It also noted that the measures taken by the government has the potential for the media to exercise its professional work. The full report of the Rapid Assessment (PDF) is available here.
UNESCO is closely working with the government in supporting the revision of media laws to make sure they meet international practices and frameworks.