Ethiopia | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press



Freedom of the Press 2003

2003 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

Press Freedom Score
(0 = best, 100 = worst)


Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)


Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)


A 1992 law guarantees freedom of the press, but also forbids publishing articles that are defamatory, threaten the safety of the state, agitate for war, or incite ethnic conflict. Throughout the year, harsh criminal libel laws were used to prosecute and fine or jail a number of journalists, including the head of the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists' Association (EFJA). At least several dozen more journalists have fled the country and live in self-imposed exile rather than face pending court cases. In July and August, international press freedom advocates as well as the EFJA expressed concern over the government's plan to introduce a new press law and a code of ethics, which they feared could be used to further restrict the operations of the media. Although legal action continues to be the most prevalent form of official harassment, reporters are also subjected to occasional intimidation and physical violence at the hands of police and security forces. Broadcast media are largely state-run, and some journalists practice self-censorship. The independent print media remain lively and critical of the government, but most publications are not distributed widely throughout the country. High annual licensing fees and bureaucratic licensing procedures impose additional restraints on newspapers' ability to publish, while reporters continue to have trouble gaining access to official information.