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State interference in media content; shift in media law

Despite some positive changes in media law, Ethiopian journalists operating within state media have no editorial independence, says the International Press Institute (IPI) after a recent fact-finding mission to Ethiopia.

After meetings with local media and the head of the Office of Government Communication Affairs (OGCA), IPI learned that the OGCA involvement with state media reinforces government influence. A document published in 2008 "invites the media to focus on developmental journalism and informs journalists that they should focus on success stories." Some say the document is an effort to curb media efforts to hold the government accountable, reports IPI.

IPI expressed concern about an ongoing legal case in which several media owners are trying to secure publishing licenses for political newspapers shut down in 2005. According to IPI, the head of the OGCA said he was not willing to award the licenses on the basis of supporting a pluralistic media environment.

However, there have been positive developments. There has been support for freedom of information laws as well as the removal of the authorities' power to hold journalists in jail while pursuing an investigation.

IPI has made several recommendations. The government should: ensure the proper development of public service media; recognise dissenting, plural voices; resist the temptation to adopt practices of other countries without first considering if they are in accordance with the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. IPI also urges the media to establish best practices for its own credibility.


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