Ethiopia | Freedom House

Freedom of the Press

Ethiopia

Ethiopia

Freedom of the Press 2004

2004 Scores

Press Status

Not Free

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

66

Political Environment
(0 = best, 40 = worst)

23

Economic Environment
(0 = best, 30 = worst)

19

While a 1992 law guarantees freedom of the press, the government restricts this right in practice. Throughout 2003, laws concerning publishing false information, inciting ethnic hatred, libel, and publishing articles offensive to public morality were used to justify the arrest, detention, prosecution, and fining of journalists. At least several dozen more journalists have fled the country and live in self-imposed exile rather than face pending court cases. Press freedom organizations and local journalists, led by the Ethiopian Free Press Journalists' Association (EFJA), continued to voice concern with a draft press law and code of ethics presented by the government in 2002, which they feared could be used to restrict the operations of the media further. In November and December, the ministry of justice banned the operation of the EFJA and suspended several executive committee members from their positions, accusing the organization of failing to renew its license and submit audited financial statements to the government. However, EFJA president Kifle Mulat insisted that the EFJA had submitted all the required paperwork, instead alleging that the association was shut down due to its vociferous opposition to the draft press law. While foreign broadcasts are available, domestic broadcast media are state-run, and some journalists practice self-censorship. Although official harassment continues most frequently in the form of legal action, reporters are also subjected to occasional intimidation and physical violence at the hands of police and security forces. At year's end, 35 journalists had cases pending and several continued to be detained under charges filed the previous year. 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 face obstacles to gaining access to official information.