After decades of censorship and crackdowns, Ethiopia is currently enjoying greater freedom of the press. Hundreds of websites have been unblocked, journalists have been released from prison and are returning from exile. Free Press Unlimited is helping Ethiopia’s media in the transition towards a new state of independence.

Changing landscape

For many years, Ethiopia could be found in the lowest regions of the Reporters Without Borders (RSF) press freedom index. Journalists were subjected to intense government pressure, which resulted in unlawful arrests, detainment and attacks against the media. Freedom of speech was severely curtailed with only state-owned media left to operate according to government narratives.

In early 2018, Ethiopia experienced a political shake-up when the prime minister resigned in response to mass protests. Under the new prime minister, journalists in Ethiopia appear to finally have a chance to build an independent media sector. Political and media reforms are paving the way for a free and open landscape. Veteran and new reporters are working hard to provide the public with relevant, fact-based information.

Nevertheless, they still have many challenges to overcome. There’s a lack of infrastructure, facilities and equipment. Internet access is expensive. And due to years of poor education, many media organisations fall short when it comes to maintaining principles of objective journalism.

Support for sustainable businesses

Free Press Unlimited has teamed up with the United States Embassy in the capital Addis Ababa to help Ethiopia’s fledgling independent media strengthen its capacity during this crucial period. The Fund for Emerging Media in Ethiopia (FEME) aims to encourage development of new and existing independent media which produce professional, fact-based and unbiased information on political, and economic reforms. It will also support media organisations in their development towards sustainable businesses.

Independent Ethiopian media organisations can apply to the fund for help with capacity building, technical support and equipment including internet service. Experts will be made available to consult the organisations on developing sustainable business plans.

Ethiopia’s journalists and media organisations have grasped their newfound freedom to inform the public with both hands. Free Press Unlimited’s support enables them to further improve their capacity, knowledge and skills. And this, in turn, creates fresh opportunities to develop ethical, relevant and, ultimately, innovative news coverage for the citizens of Ethiopia.